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Planner's Pocket Reference

This page provides links to useful resources for local government planners in Washington State.


Planning professionals address an array of community needs, including land use, transportation, parks and recreation, environmental resources, housing, commercial and industrial development, economic development, and infrastructure.

As a result, planners must have at least a working understanding and ability to analyze a variety of subjects. They will encounter terminology and technical information from a variety of disciplines. Even planners that are highly specialized, such as transportation planners, must understand the interaction between transportation and land use, environment, economic, social, fiscal, legal, and other considerations. In some communities, especially small towns with small budgets, the person responsible for planning is not trained as a planner. Survival as a planner requires the ability to become quickly conversant on new issues and tools. That requires quick access to relevant reference materials and resources.

In an era of tight budgets, few planning offices can afford in-house libraries of all reference materials or significant on-the-job training. Fortunately, there are a growing number of useful resources available on the Internet.

Why Plan?

Selected Reference Shelf

  • Access Washington, Washington State - Links to state agencies and contacts, state facts, budget information, laws and rules,and other information  
  • Reference Center - Links to information on U.S. laws, bills in Congress, regulations, statistical information, contacts, maps, governmental publications and other government databases
  • Resources for Local Government - Local government directories, links to useful local government statistics, organizations
  • Virtual Reference Shelf, Library of Congress - Offers an intriguing collection of resources ranging from business, economic indicators, calculators, grants, and politics to encyclopedia mythica, quotations, and Farmer’s Almanac
  • Ipl2 – Reference website hosted by a consortium of colleges and universities offers wealth of resources by subject including a law, government & political science category, and a computers & Internet one
  • National Transportation Library Information, Resources and Tools, U.S. Department of Transportation - Includes transportation directories, search engines, thesaurus, statistics, and pocket guide
  • Geospatial Data Gateway, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service - National Atlas, USGS maps, U.S. Census Bureau geography, rural development information, natural resources data including soils
  • Environmental Design Library, Berkeley - Listing of many resources and help with how to find information related to planning, urban design, architecture, and landscape architecture

Glossaries and Acronyms

Land Use and Planning


Agency Acronyms and Abbreviations




Economic and Financial Terms

Legal Terms


The Players

Trainings and Tutorials

Planning and Land Use

  • Washington Department of Commerce
    • Basic Short Course on Local Planning - Series of videos including the legal basis for planning in Washington, comprehensive planning and implementation, and planning roles/citizen participation. Also includes special topic videos on a variety of planning topics
  • American Planning Association (APA) Education Center - Online interactive training/workshops, self-directed study, and audio conferences on a variety of planning topics. Most are fee based and require registration
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Smart Growth Webinars, Videos, and Podcasts - Location efficiency, green infrastructure, essential smart growth fixes for rural communities, and many others
  • Smart Growth Speaker Series, National Building Museum - Free noontime speaker series, live and archived, with interesting list of topics such as Happy City, Ian McHarg Reconsidered, smart growth in rural communities, intelligent cities, essential zoning fixes, tactical urbanism, great public squares, and more
  • Scotie Planning in the West Webinars: Lessons from Local Government - (Scotie received APA’s 2012 award for best education/participation program.) Topics include climate change preparedness, water resources planning, sustainable agriculture and others. Also see Scotie Partner Webinars including Zombie Subdivisions
  • Land Use Videos, Institute for Local Government - very short clips on topics such as nonconforming uses
  • National Park Service Technical Preservation Services, Online Education - Historic preservation tutorials
  • American FactFinder Tutorials, U.S. Bureau of Census

Environment, Energy, GIS

Technical Tools

Land Use Toolbox

Planning Law Reference Shelf

  • Legal and Practical Objectives of Planning, Chapter 1, Planning Short Course, Washington Department of Commerce/Planning Association of Washington (PAW) - Summary of planning-related statutes in Washington
  • Revised Code of Washington/Washington Administrative Code
  • Washington State Constitution.
  • Growth Management Laws and Rules, Washington Department of Commerce, Growth Management Services
  • Legal Topics, MRSC - Includes Legal topics of interest to Washington local governments and links to Washington State Supreme and Appellate Court Decisions, Growth Management Hearings Boards Decisions, Attorney General Opinions, and other resources
  • Law Links, Environmental and Land Use Law Section, Washington State Bar Association - Federal and State Laws
  • Legal Research on the Internet, Washington State Office of Administrative Hearings - Listing of legal research resources, especially related to administrative hearings
  • Washington Law Help - Directory for self-help information on a variety of legal topics, including housing (but not land use)
  • Beginner's Guide to Land Use Law, Land Use Law Center, Pace University School of Law
  • Laws & Regulations, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Includes federal codes, federal register, major environmental laws
  • Environmental Law Net - Comprehensive legal reference site including federal laws by subject, state and tribal law, federal and other agency documents, brownsfield redevelopment
  • (Thomas) - Searchable, on-line legislation and issues before the current session of Congress
  • Land Use, Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute - Includes federal codes, regulations, and judicial decisions on land use, environment, energy and natural resources

Model Codes and Plans

Manuals and Handbooks

Recommended Resource Books

Last Modified: August 23, 2017