Why our communities still need master plans

With declining populations, revenues, communities should still develop long-term plans

Planning is a core local governmental activity. For many communities, their master plan is their most comprehensive effort to analyze data and to make reasonable projections about population changes and other local trends.

In the past, these plans generally looked 20 years ahead and made projections about anticipated growth. Some communities reviewed such indicators as new housing construction and census data trends and then made their best guesses. While not perfect, the data collected provided a basis -- a rationale for recommended actions, policies and procedures.  

While not perfect, this process is still one of the best ways for communities to justify zoning changes and other critical land use decisions.

An important part of the master plan looks at existing and proposed land uses, and it provides the rational basis for the difference between the two. So, in the new reality of stagnant and declining populations, communities should not forget the importance of planning; and while a five-year plan may be strategic in its design and implementation, the long-term plan is still needed. The 10- and 20-year plans still allow communities to think comprehensively, and they still provide a sound rationale for policy recommendations and local decisions pertaining to land use.               

For more information on this subject, see MSUE flyer Land Use Series: “Checklist #1F: Content of a Plan”;


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