This article is reprinted with kind permission from The Hometown Advantage Bulletin, a free email newsletter published by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. To read back issues or join the mailing list, visit here. The Institute’s focus is on small business vitality which is on our minds as well, the Cafritz team mentioned local businesses as a regular comment during the community input. We are somewhat concerned about so many new or redeveloping commercial centers: Univ. Town Center, EYA, Riverdale’s Town Center and more. While we do agree that our area is under served for retail, we hope to see careful and thoughtful planning given to creating a strong mix of local and national retail. Read on…
There are two primary pieces of local land use policy: the comprehensive plan and the zoning code. The comprehensive plan is essentially a vision statement containing general guidelines for development in a local jurisdiction. The plan is then implemented through the zoning code. The zoning code contains concrete rules defining which uses (commercial, residential, etc.) are allowed in each area of town and specifying certain restrictions on those uses, such as economic impact standards or limits on the scale of buildings.
Strong comprehensive plans yield a number of important benefits. In addition to serving as the basis of zoning, plans provide land use officials with guidelines for reviewing development permits and applications to rezone certain sites. Plans that clearly articulate a policy to promote small, local retail businesses and discourage corporate chains will help ensure that these goals are the focus of planning board decisions.
Comprehensive plans also give municipalities legal protection if a particular land use decision is challenged in court.
A growing number of communities are including in their comprehensive plans an intention to preserve and strengthen locally owned businesses, limit commercial development to the downtown or other existing retail districts, and restrict the proliferation of corporate chains. Examples include:
▪ Kent County, Maryland–The comprehensive plan lists among its objectives “support [for] small, locally owned businesses” and “prevent[tion of] commercial sprawl outside the county’s existing traditional commercial centers.”
▪ Skaneateles, New York–The town’s plan states, “Rather than establishing competing shopping centers in the Town to provide basic goods and services, the Village commercial center. . . should remain the center for shopping in the community.”
▪ Corvallis, Oregon–The comprehensive plans requires that the city work to “maintain a low unemployment rate and promote diversification of the local economy” and “support existing businesses and industries and the establishment of locally owned, managed, or controlled small businesses.”
▪ American Planning Association’s Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook (see Chapter 7 on local comprehensive plans)
▪ PlannersWeb Articles on Comprehensive Plans
▪ Under Construction: Tools and Techniques for Local Planning MN Planning