Comprehensive planning follows a typical planning process which consists of eight different steps. By following this process, planners are able to determine a wide range of interconnecting issues that affect an urban or rural area. Each step can be seen as interdependent and many times planners will revise the order to best fit their needs.
The planning process must identity and address not only contemporary issues of concern to residents, workers, property owners, and business people, but also the emerging issues that will be important in the future. Generally, planners determine community issues by involving various community leaders, community organizations, and ordinary citizens in the planning process.
Once issues have been identified by a community, goals can then be established. Goals are community visions. They establish priorities for communities and help community leaders make future decisions. Stating goals is not always an easy process and it requires the active participation of all people in the community.
Data is needed in the planning process in order to evaluate current community conditions as well as to predict future conditions. Information is most easily collected from the United States Census Bureau; however, many communities actively collect their own data. The information most typically collected for a comprehensive plan include data about the environment, traffic conditions, economic conditions, social conditions (such as population and income), public services and utilities, and land use conditions (such as housing and zoning). Once this information is collected, it is analyzed and studied. Outcomes of the data collection process include population projections, economic condition forecasts, and future housing needs.
Preparing the Plan
The plan is prepared using the information gathered during the data collection and goal setting stages. A typical comprehensive plan begins by giving a brief background of the current and future conditions found in the data collection step. Following the background information are the community goals and the strategies that will be used in order to implement those goals into the community. Plans may also contain separate sections for important issues such as transportation or housing which follow the same standard format.
Creating Implementation Plans
During this stage of the process different programs are identified in order to implement the goals of the plan.
Each alternative should be evaluated by community leaders to ensure the most efficient and cost effective way to realize the community’s goals. At this point, each alternative should be weighed, given its potential positive and negative effects on the community, and impacts on the city government. One alternative should be chosen that best meets the needs and desires of the community and community leaders for meeting the community goals.
Adopting a Plan
The community needs to adopt the plan as an official statement of policy in order for it to take effect. This is usually done by the City Council or County Commission through public hearings. Once the plan is accepted by officials it is then a legal statement of community policy in regards to future development.
Implementing and Monitoring the Plan
Using the implementation plans defined in the earlier steps, the city or the county will carry out the goals in the comprehensive plans. Planning staff monitors the outcomes of the plan and may propose future changes if the results are not desired.
A comprehensive plan is not a permanent document. It can be changed and rewritten over time. For many fast growing communities, it is necessary to revise or update the comprehensive plan every five to ten years. In order for the comprehensive plan to be relevant to the community it must remain current.
For more information on Comprehensive Planning contact Rick Morris or Gerald Mixon at 877-819-6348.