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Comprehensive Plan

What is a Comprehensive Plan?

Comprehensive planning

Is a term used in the United States by land use planners to describe a process that determines community goals and aspirations in terms of community development. The outcome of comprehensive planning is the Comprehensive Plan which dictates public policy in terms of transportation, utilities, land use, recreation, and housing. Comprehensive plans typically encompass large geographical areas, a broad range of topics, and cover a long-term time horizon.

Presenting the big picture

A plan gives community members an opportunity to clarify their ideas about the kind of community they are creating through their many specific decisions. Through information gathering, analysis, and evaluation of alternatives, the plan ensures that public actions are based on factual analysis. The preparation of a comprehensive plan is an opportunity to create a vision for the community, an overall image in words that describes what the local government wants to be and how it wants to look at some point in the future. The vision serves as the unifying concept for the plan.

Involving the Community

In many communities, the preparation of a comprehensive plan is the local government’s most visible means of involving the public. Workshops, questionnaires, interviews, web sites, planning exercises, and public hearings are all ways to gauge public sentiment regarding where the community should be going and what it should look like.

Guide Regulations and Public and Private Investment

A comprehensive plan, through the adoption of goals and policies, establishes a framework for the administration of zoning and subdivision regulations and the location, financing and sequencing of public capital investment. When individual proposals for developments are reviewed by the local government for zoning changes or development applications such as for subdivisions, the comprehensive plan provides guidance for location, use and type of roads, and similar improvements. Similarly, when a community is reviewing its annual capital budget or long-term capital improvement program, the comprehensive plan aids in setting priorities.

Since it indicates how a local government will act over time regarding development and redevelopment, the comprehensive plan provides direction to the private sector that will shape private initiatives such as development proposals.

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