Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

New planning tools feature in RPP Update


The Cape Cod Commission is using technology to help define the past, present and possible future of Cape Cod’s unique communities. The tools were developed as part of the 2015 Regional Policy Plan update, and demonstrated during the initial set of stakeholder meetings throughout the spring.

At the request of planners from across the Cape, Commission staff demonstrated these tools  in an early-June session at the Commission offices. The Barnstable Planning Board received a similar presentation at its June 8 meeting.

Chronology Viewer

The Chronology Viewer was developed by Commission staff to show historic development patterns through an interactive online tool. Numerous national, state and regional data sets were used to build the viewer. Commission staff also went town-by-town to collect data from annual reports as far back as 1880 to build local-level information not readily available.

Cape-wide assessing data was used to create a timeline indicating when parcels went into development as far back as 1700. When considered with a series of aerial flyovers from 1938 through 2002, users can review the Cape’s critical residential development patterns over time.

Community Characteristics

The Community Characteristics viewer is another tool built in-house by the Commission’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Department. Using local, state and national data sets, the tool displays land use and demographic information based on intensity patterns for all of Barnstable County.

Users can review specific areas or town-wide statistics to compare differences between areas or towns. For the Regional Policy Plan, similarities among all towns may present appropriate opportunities for regional-scale regulations. More importantly, the areas that tend not to overlap may suggest places where locally-sensitive conditions could be applied.

Envision Tomorrow

A powerful tool that shows what possible development and land use changes could mean for communities was unveiled at the June stakeholder meetings. Envision Tomorrow, or ET, is an open source scenario planning tool developed by Fregonese Associates of Portland, Oregon. It has been deployed at the municipal, regional and state level as a way to sketch possible impacts of policies, development decisions and current growth trajectories.

The Commission worked with Fregonese Associates to incorporate the Cape-specific data that drives the calculations for two versions of the tool. Along with the more powerful parcel-based desktop tool intended for planners, an online version for residents and community members was developed. It was the beta version of the online tool that planners and the public saw demonstrated this month.

The Envision Tomorrow Online tool will be released to the public in the coming weeks. This will allow the public to create their own visions of future development and submit them for Commission consideration in the RPP Update process.

The Commission itself will spend the summer drafting the revised plan, which will be brought back through three sets of stakeholder meetings in the fall for refinement.

A final plan will be presented for adoption by the Cape Cod Commission and then to the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates for adoption by the end of the calendar year.

The Regional Policy Plan is required to be updated every five years. The goals for the 2015 update include simplification of the regulatory framework, easing local comprehensive plan requirements and providing a framework for regional capital planning.

These and other tools are available for review at

Envision Tomorrow online is expected to be released to stakeholders by the end of June.

Search Circle Icon Search Icon Document Icon Video Icon PDF Icon CSV/XLS Icon