Local government planning boards can get lost in large issues that are beyond their control or in minute details, and, as a result, fail to find the middle ground and plan for community character and livability, according to a new book from the Washington-based Urban Land Institute (ULI) and the American Planning Association (APA). The book, "Envisioning Better Communities," addresses how municipalities can carry out planning and development while preserving a community's attractiveness and unique character.

The book's author, Randall Arendt, provides "practical and achievable" solutions to challenges facing local officials, planning commissioners, developers, building owners and residents in planning various size communities along the metro edge, according to ULI and APA. "Envisioning Better Communities" includes side-by-side comparisons of similar places and kinds of buildings in an effort to show how clear cut and realistic decisions by municipalities can improve a community's quality of life and individual charm while meeting the community's own values and goals.

The book's five main parts cover a variety of topics: balancing development and conservation; conservation subdivision design; residential neighborhood design principles; improving downtown appearance and viability; and transforming highway commercial strips into mixed use centers and corridors.

Envisioning Better Communities is available in bookstores and through the Urban Land Institute at www.uli.org or by calling 1-800-321-5011. The price is $59.95.

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