What is included in a Comprehensive Plan?
The elements of a comprehensive plan are unique to each community and will vary from place to place. Per state law, however, the plan must address the following:
- Population element. The population element includes information related to historic trends and projections; the number, size and characteristics of households; educational levels and trends; income characteristics and trends; race; sex; age and other information relevant to a clear understanding of how the population affects the existing situation and future potential of the area.
- Economic development element. The economic element includes historic trends and projections on the numbers and characteristics of the labor force, where the people who live in the community work, where people who work in the community reside, available employment characteristics and trends, an economic base analysis and any other matters affecting the local economy. Tourism, manufacturing and revitalization efforts may be appropriate factors to consider.
- Natural resources element. This element could include information on coastal resources, slope characteristics, prime agricultural and forest land, plant and animal habitats, unique park and recreation areas, unique scenic views and sites, wetlands and soil types. This element could also include information on flood plain and flood way areas, mineral deposits, air quality and any other matter related to the natural environment of the area. If there is a separate community board addressing any aspects of this element, that board may be made responsible for preparing this element. The planning commission could incorporate the element into the local comprehensive plan by reference. S.C. Code § 6-29-510 (D)(3).
- Cultural resources element. This element could include historic buildings and structures, unique commercial or residential areas, unique natural or scenic resources, archeological sites, educational, religious or entertainment areas or institutions, and any other feature or facility relating to the cultural aspects of the community. As with the natural resources element, a separate board may prepare this element. The planning commission can incorporate the work of a separate board into the comprehensive plan by reference.
- Community facilities element. This element includes many activities essential to the growth, development or redevelopment of the community.
- Housing element. This element includes an analysis of existing housing by location, type, age, condition, owner and renter occupancy, affordability, and projections of housing needs to accommodate existing and future population as identified in the population and economic elements. The housing element requires an analysis of local regulations to determine if there are regulations that may hinder development of affordable housing. It includes an analysis of market-based incentives that may be made available to encourage the development of affordable housing. Incentives may include density bonuses, design flexibility and a streamlined permitting process.
- Land use element. This element deals with the development characteristics of the land. It considers existing and future land use by categories including residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, forestry, mining, public and quasi-public, recreation, parks, open space, and vacant or undeveloped land. This element is influenced by all previously described plan elements. The findings, projections and conclusions from each of the previous six elements will influence the amount of land needed for various uses.
- Transportation element. This element was originally included in the community facilities element. The transportation element considers transportation facilities including major road improvements, new road construction, and pedestrian and bicycle projects. This element must be developed in coordination with the land use element to ensure transportation efficiency for existing and planned development.
- Priority investment element. This element requires an analysis of projected federal, state and local funds available for public infrastructure and facilities during the next 10 years and recommends the projects for those funds. These recommendations must be coordinated with adjacent and relevant jurisdictions and agencies (counties, other municipalities, school districts, public and private utilities, transportation agencies, and any other public group that may be affected by the projects). Coordination simply means written notification by the local planning commission or its staff to those groups.
Who is responsible for creation, review, and monitoring the Comprehensive Plan?
The Planning Commission is responsible for defining criteria and principles for engaging citizens in a public involvement process, identifying benchmarks, and timelines to measure success, and serving as “champions” of the process to make sure that criteria and principles continue to be applied throughout the development and implementation of the Plan.