Interns plan

Planning interns Evan Aprison (left) and Zach Panoff stand in front of their massive maps, the product of a summer’s worth of work.

Ben Jacobson/Clinton Herald
Herald Staff Writer

The task would not be easy.

Hundreds of miles would need to be traversed. Thousands of buildings, homes and businesses examined. The unforgiving Iowa sun would be waiting, eager to resume its tortuous gaze after a mild spring.

What needed to be done had never been done before in the history of Clinton.

Nerves of steel and veins filled with ice would be requisite for anyone daring enough to attempt such a monumental feat.

Enter the interns.

University of Iowa grad students and city planning interns Zach Panoff and Evan Aprison recently completed what City Planner Mike Reynolds claims has never ever been done before. After scouring every nook and cranny of the Clinton metropolitan area, Panoff and Aprison recently presented a detailed land use map to the Clinton Plan Commission.

The map shows, block by block, exactly how Clinton residents and property owners use their land.

“It’s a good visual guide to what’s happening, and where,” Aprison said.

Armed with maps and pens, the two interns, beginning at opposite ends of town, explored all of Clinton, documenting their findings. The monthlong process produced the land use map, which will be used in conjunction with a brand new zoning map, also produced by the interns, to help update the city’s comprehensive plan.

The two maps are similar, but Panoff said there is an important difference.

Whereas the zoning map provides city officials with a breakdown of the zoning ordinances of each neighborhood “the usage map shows what’s there, whether the zoning map likes it or not,” Panoff said.

Discrepancies were found, but Panoff and Aprison said they were primarily minor residential anomalies. They said that a massive number of single family residences exist in Clinton, often spilling over into areas zoned for multi-family residences.

Detective work was essential for the interns, who say they frequently had to rely on their “best judgment” to determine the purpose for structures. Sometimes, to determine the number of units in a building, Panoff said they had to find energy meters or other indications of division.

Panoff said that in the process of surveying Clinton, a few obstacles popped up.

“A few suspicious citizens, which you can’t blame them for,” he said. “We’re walking around with clipboards in (neighborhoods).”

The heat, which has dogged Iowa throughout July, wasn’t too much of a problem for Panoff and Aprison, as most of their door-to-door work was completed in June.

“Only toward the end of our fieldwork did it start to get warm,” Panoff said. “It really wasn’t that bad.”

Reynolds offered high praise for his interns, whose work he said will be used by city officials for years. He was particularly impressed with the quickness of their work, as Panoff and Aprison completed the project well before he anticipated.

“They amazed a lot of us with their speed in constructing an accurate land use map,” he said. “It produced a workable, everyday planning tool for the city.”

City Plan Commission members also praised the work of Panoff and Aprison, with at least one member calling the large, color-coded maps “beautiful.”

The up-to-date maps will replace older, disjointed maps used by city officials for zoning and planning purposes. The GIS software used to make the maps is also used by the engineering department in the city and can be updated as changes are made.

The interns will graduate in May 2012, and hopefully begin work as city planners.

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