Why does a City need a Comprehensive Plan?

Cities are living organisms that are always changing and growing in some way. Whether we are talking about physical growth, economic growth, or societal growth, having a plan is critical to guide that growth appropriately. Here are some examples of what we mean:

  • Physical growth – the Comprehensive Plan helps provide a road map for “what goes where” when it comes to transportation, land use, and open space.
  • Economic growth – the Comprehensive Plan aids in setting economic development policies (like incentives or training) and ensures that this type of growth aligns with what the needs of businesses and residents are.
  • Societal growth – the Comprehensive Plan advances societal growth by ensuring that there is a defined role for everyone in the community, giving guidance for decision making, and provides a transparent approach to accountability.

Over time, members of the city staff, elected officials, and the citizen group itself changes. A comprehensive plan provides continuity across all of those changes. It also creates a way for cities to be much more proactive.

Resources are also best utilized when a plan is in place. One of the most frequent issues in communities of all sizes is a lack of alignment between all of the different groups and organizations working to better that community. We have all heard the phrase, “doing more with less.” We have all been in the position of trying to do more with less. In order to truly do more, this alignment is necessary. A comprehensive plan provides that alignment at a community-wide level and can leverage existing resources to accomplish much more. A positive side effect is that it often helps to improve communication and support.

Transparency and accountability are often two areas in which citizens tend to express a need for improvement within any city. A comprehensive plan is an important tool in accomplishing a higher level of transparency, by clearly stating and making available to the public the goals and the strategies that will be enacted to reach those goals. Furthermore, it is an accountability document intended to provide a way for the administration to measure their levels of effectiveness and to make the organization accountable to meeting community needs.

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