What is a Comprehensive Plan?
What is a Comprehensive Plan?
A community comprehensive plan is a foundational document. Think of it in terms of these three main tasks:
- It provides a rationale for decision-making.
- It provides recommendations for policy and budgeting.
- It provides an examination of the overall picture of a city – a snapshot in time today and a glimpse at the future the community wishes to achieve.
While ordinances and regulations are the tools, the plan is the vision. It expresses the goals and direction a community desires to pursue, and provides the game plan for how to get there. By planning ahead, there are clear expectations and responsibilities outlined. This gives the best opportunity for success in execution. Imagine trying to perform your job without knowing the goals of your employer, what resources and tools are available to you, or what you are responsible for. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to make meaningful progress.
Comprehensive plans have two components: the visual component and the text component. The visual component revolves around a series of maps. In this plan, the primary maps will be a series analyzing the fiscal sustainability of Liberty Hill, and the proposed arrangement of future land uses within it. This plan uses visual elements to show what different types of land uses should look like. These pieces outline the “what”. The text component sets the scene by outlining the existing conditions and builds from there to include a number of subjects related to the future of the city. This includes analysis and results in an implementation strategy of actions for the city to begin working on once the plan has been adopted. These pieces outline the “how”.
The engagement process is a critical piece that must involve the public in order to build consensus, learn about the resources available in the community, and understand the needs and desires of the public. The feedback from residents, businesses, groups, and the city organization also aids in the prioritization of goals and steps for implementation.
You may be thinking to yourself, “wait a minute – our community is always evolving; how can we create a plan, knowing this?”. It’s a great question. Fortunately, while the Comprehensive Plan is ultimately approved and adopted by the governing body for the city, it can always be amended and updated to reflect those changing conditions. In fact, it is recommended that a city looks at its plan on an annual basis to adjust as needed. What is important is that additions and modifications stay true to the adopted vision and values the city has established.
A comprehensive plan should not be a document that is rarely used or consulted. The objective is to help communities create a document that is the center of their decision-making and their culture. Ordinances, budgeting, decision-making, and organizational management should all be in alignment with this plan. This not only creates consistency and continuity over time, but it also enhances and deepens the identity of the city.