A Comp Plan and Why It Matters

A number of folks have asked why The Free Enterprise Forum invests so much time tracking and commenting on Comprehensive Plans.  As all of the localities are in different phases of their comprehensive plans, a backgrounder on Comprehensive Planning seems appropriate.

Virginia Law ( § 15.2-2223.) requires each and every locality to produce a comprehensive plan.  What started as an idea to encourage localities to increase their planning horizons, has grown to be much more.

The reality as this document is mandated to be updated every five years, most localities use this exercise as a visioning type document.  The Comprehensive Plan does not have the force of law but it is designed by statute to provide a guide to the future of the locality.  In addition, Comprehensive Plans often suggest strategies that later become regulatory initiatives; the rallying cry then becomes, “It’s in the comp plan”.

Since the Free Enterprise Forum works only on policy and not on projects, the comprehensive plan is a clear opportunity to make sure the guiding principles of the locality agree with the guiding principles as expressed by the entire community.  Further, it is an opportunity to confirm local government’s commitment to their strategic plans. 

Unfortunately, even for us policy wonks, this is not very exciting work.  Last weekend, Greene County held the first of its public input sessions with the community in Dyke.  Reports indicate attendance was less than 20 citizens.  The public work session in Albemarle regarding the Economic Development Chapter of the comprehensive plan had only 4 speakers. 

The Free Enterprise Forum will continue to monitor and comment on the comprehensive plans as they move through their approval process. As a part of our charge to keep the community informed we will report from the meetings and engage local government to promote free enterprise and transparency in government.

However, our active participation is not enough.  As Woody Allen famously said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up”.  We encourage any and all residents and businesses to get involved in the comprehensive planning in your locality — this will be the foundation that future initatives will be built on.

For your review, we have include the entire Virginia code section describing Comprehensive Planning below:   

The local planning commission shall prepare and recommend a comprehensive plan for the physical development of the territory within its jurisdiction and every governing body shall adopt a comprehensive plan for the territory under its jurisdiction.

In the preparation of a comprehensive plan, the commission shall make careful and comprehensive surveys and studies of the existing conditions and trends of growth, and of the probable future requirements of its territory and inhabitants. The comprehensive plan shall be made with the purpose of guiding and accomplishing a coordinated, adjusted and harmonious development of the territory which will, in accordance with present and probable future needs and resources, best promote the health, safety, morals, order, convenience, prosperity and general welfare of the inhabitants, including the elderly and persons with disabilities.

The comprehensive plan shall be general in nature, in that it shall designate the general or approximate location, character, and extent of each feature, including any road improvement and any transportation improvement, shown on the plan and shall indicate where existing lands or facilities are proposed to be extended, widened, removed, relocated, vacated, narrowed, abandoned, or changed in use as the case may be.

As part of the comprehensive plan, each locality shall develop a transportation plan that designates a system of transportation infrastructure needs and recommendations that may include the designation of new and expanded transportation facilities and that support the planned development of the territory covered by the plan and shall include, as appropriate, but not be limited to, roadways, bicycle accommodations, pedestrian accommodations, railways, bridges, waterways, airports, ports, and public transportation facilities. The plan should recognize and differentiate among a hierarchy of roads such as expressways, arterials, and collectors. The Virginia Department of Transportation shall, upon request, provide localities with technical assistance in preparing such transportation plan.

The plan, with the accompanying maps, plats, charts, and descriptive matter, shall show the locality’s long-range recommendations for the general development of the territory covered by the plan. It may include, but need not be limited to:

1. The designation of areas for various types of public and private development and use, such as different kinds of residential, including age-restricted, housing; business; industrial; agricultural; mineral resources; conservation; active and passive recreation; public service; flood plain and drainage; and other areas;

2. The designation of a system of community service facilities such as parks, sports playing fields, forests, schools, playgrounds, public buildings and institutions, hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, community centers, waterworks, sewage disposal or waste disposal areas, and the like;

3. The designation of historical areas and areas for urban renewal or other treatment;

4. The designation of areas for the implementation of reasonable ground water protection measures;

5. A capital improvements program, a subdivision ordinance, a zoning ordinance and zoning district maps, mineral resource district maps and agricultural and forestal district maps, where applicable;

6. The location of existing or proposed recycling centers;

7. The location of military bases, military installations, and military airports and their adjacent safety areas; and

8. The designation of corridors or routes for electric transmission lines of 150 kilovolts or more.

The plan shall include: the designation of areas and implementation of measures for the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of affordable housing, which is sufficient to meet the current and future needs of residents of all levels of income in the locality while considering the current and future needs of the planning district within which the locality is situated.

The plan shall include: a map that shall show road improvements and transportation improvements, including the cost estimates of such road and transportation improvements as available from the Virginia Department of Transportation, taking into account the current and future needs of residents in the locality while considering the current and future needs of the planning district within which the locality is situated.

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