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?The comprehensive plan is a community?s compass. It is designed to help residents chart a course to a mutually agreed-upon future. The comprehensive plan is a tool that can be used to foster change or effectively deal with unanticipated changes.? (American Planning Association/ Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Technical Briefs, Planning and the Comprehensive Plan, 2006)
In short, a comprehensive plan is a representation of a community?s vision for the future. It is a vision for the future growth, preservation and development of a community, whether that community is a small village, town, large city or an entire region. The comprehensive plan is a fundamental tool of local governments to create a roadmap addressing existing and future land use needs that ensure the health, safety and welfare of its current and future citizens.
Comprehensive plans are very important in that they are written and implemented by local governments. This level of government has the most direct interaction with the most citizens and has the most impact upon the developed and natural environment of the community. Therefore, the development of a comprehensive plan gives citizens, through their local government, the ability to create their community by choice and not by chance.
Depending upon state and local laws, a comprehensive plan may also go by other names including master plan, community plan, or general plan. In fact, the Colorado revised statues generally refer to these plans as a master plan. For the purpose of this class, the use of the term comprehensive plan will be used to represent all of the aforementioned terms.
A comprehensive plan may consist of a small report or include a number of volumes detailing specific areas of concern. The form of the plan documents may rely primarily on a map or maps and illustrations while other plans may rely primarily on written texts.