Dear Management Doctor:

I am interested in what the exact meaning of a viewshed is. The viewshed I am interested in is in relation to property located near the New River, near Fayetteville, West Virginia. A planned development is trying to open and is being protested by Park Services and other environmental groups.


Dear Anonymous,

A viewshed is anything the local community wants it to be or defines it to be. I often see the term used in relation to rivers, lakes and oceans. They can also be used to refer to other natural features such as mountains, ridge tops, etc., or certain man-made features such as views to a cathedral or important historic or public building.

Planners will often complete studies analyzing the views to a selected feature and then decide how much of the view to protect. For example, on the California coast, views to the ocean are prized and this means providing wide and open side yards for properties on roads paralleling the ocean. I have a view of downtown San Diego and San Diego Bay from my house. In San Diego, real estate agents suggest that this may add at least $200,000 to the value of your property. Some neighborhoods have ordinances or deed restrictions prohibiting neighbors from blocking the view. Unfortunately mine does not and I would love to convince several neighbors to trim their trees. When I was in Tucson, protecting views to the mountains was important.

The Management Doctor (aka tree surgeon)

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