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Comprehensive Plan Samples and Tools

What is a Comprehensive Plan?

A Comprehensive Plan is a written document formally adopted by the local legislature that contains goals, objectives, and strategies for the future development and conservation of the community. New York State statutes list 15 components that such plans "may" contain, but do not require localities to follow a fixed format in developing plans for the future. 

(J.R. Nolon, 2001)


A Comprehensive Plan is a road map that guides a municipality’s decision related to its future grown and development. It expresses the vision, goals, strategies, and policies of a town or village and is intended to be implemented over ten to fifteen years. (Community Planning & Environmental Associates)


The Comprehensive Plan is not a law nor does it establish regulations. It is a guiding document that must be considered when developing any land use laws, such as zoning, that will be used to implement the plan. Those land use laws must be developed and adopted through a separate process. 

All land use laws must be in accordance with a comprehensive plan.  A comprehensive plan need not be a single
document. It need not be a formally adopted plan (NYS DOS).  Evidence of a plan can be found in various planning documents, such as planning board meeting minutes that reflect decision making, studies and environmental reviews, and the zoning law itself.  However, an adopted comprehensive plan, in a single document, gives a municipality more strength and defensibility when making tough land use decisions.


How is a Comprehensive Plan Developed?

A Comprehensive Plan is usually developed in steps.

Step 1: The municipal board appoints a planning committee

Step 2: Profile and inventory the municipality, including history, culture, population, transportation, housing, environment, and other resources. This step typically involves community surveys, SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), visual surveys and other public meetings.

Step 3: Develop a Vision Statement and Goals based on the results of Step 1.

Step 4: Develop strategies, actions, policies and programs that can be implemented to reach the municipality's vision for the future.

Step 5: The planning committee produces a draft of the plan and holds a public hearing. When ready, the draft plan is forwarded to the municipal board for review, SEQR, and a second public hearing. The County Planning Board must review the plan. When the final step is completed, the municipal board may adopt the plan though resolution.


Zoning and the Comprehensive Plan

This document explains the legal relationship between the comprehensive plan and municipal zoning regulations.

Comprehensive Planning

Recommended Reading

Well Grounded - Using Local Land Use Authority to Achieve Smart Growth

- John Nolon

Community Planning: An Introduction To The Comprehensive Plan

-Eric Damian Kelly

The Small Town Planning Handbook

- Daniels, Keller and Lapping


Sample Comprehensive Plans
Sample Comprehensive Plan Resident Survey Results
Sample Visual Survey Results