Land-use webinar to focus on community needs assessments to inform plans

May 14, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The importance of community planners acquiring information from local organizations and agencies to adjust their efforts will be the topic of a web-based seminar offered by Penn State Extension at noon on May 19. 

Presenting the 75-minute webinar will be Sue Auman, executive director of the Union-Snyder Community Action Agency; Christine Orlando, senior program officer for the Community Giving Foundation; and Allison Fisher, director of the Mifflin-Juniata County Human Services Department.

They will explain how plans — ranging from overall comprehensive plans to those specific to open space and recreation, housing, and transportation — benefit from relevant information and additional assessments and plans provided by community organizations and agencies. Such additional input enhances community-planning practices.

The webinar will include examples of collaborative projects, such as the Mifflin-Juniata Human Services Needs Assessment, which was developed by four local organizations. 

“It was so beneficial to have staff who know our local area and our local data to work with on this project,” Fisher said. “It made the difference between a generic, data-driven approach and a meaningful, data-driven approach.”

The presenters will share how the organizations and agencies they represent serve their respective community as well as provide information about the types of assessments and plans that their planning groups utilize. Conducting needs assessments and related studies can help organizations better understand their service area and plan actions that will produce positive impacts, according to Orlando.

“The Community Giving Foundation utilizes various methods to stay informed of community needs, encourage collaboration, and provide grant investments to nonprofits and government agencies across our region,” she said.

Community action agencies are required by federal legislation to complete a Community Needs Assessment every three years, Auman pointed out.

“The comprehensive assessment allows community action to be less reactionary and more visionary in our work within the communities,” she said.

“Community Needs Assessments that Planners Should Know About” is the fifth and final webinar in the Penn State Extension Winter/Spring 2021 Land-Use Webinar series that ran from January through May. The webinar series assists municipal elected and appointed officials, planners, landowners, farmers, and community organizations in being informed regarding land-use issues and decisions in their communities.

All webinars are recorded and available for later viewing. Topics and dates in the series include:

  • Jan. 20: “Making Quality Choices in Broadband Deployment.”
  • March 17: “Making Planning More Adaptable: ‘Adaptive Planning.’” 
  • March 31: “Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Potential Redevelopment Options for Retail Spaces.”
  • April 21: “Planning for Growth, Prosperity and Resiliency: Using the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDS) Plan and Process to Innovate and Guide Strategic Growth.”

The cost of the webinar series is $50 for all five sessions, or $95 for all five sessions for those who want to receive AICP certification-maintenance credits from the American Planning Association. The cost is also $95 for all five sessions for professional engineers needing PDH credits. 

In addition, registered landscape architects can receive continuing-education credits for a fee of $65.

For more information, contact Peter Wulfhorst at 570-296-3400 or by email at To register for the webinars, visit the Penn State Extension website.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 14, 2021