Formulating the Plan

When the baseline studies have been done and agreement has been reached on goals, the work of formulating the plan can begin. In larger communities the plan is generally drawn up by the municipality's planning agency. In smaller communities it is common for the plan to be drawn up by a planning consultant and submitted to the community for approval.

The first step in plan formulation is generally to lay out a variety of options. For example, assume that one goal is to reduce traffic congestion in the central business district. Options might include widening or straightening the main street, constructing a bypass, building a parking structure to reduce on-street parking, converting from a two-way to a one-way street system, or some combination of these options.

When all the reasonable options have been listed, it is time to begin considering their respective costs and merits. This process is sometimes referred to as "impact analysis." One item to be considered is cost and what the costs would imply for the municipal tax rate and debt structure. That study might look not only at direct costs of the options, but also at indirect considerations such as estimated effects on sales tax receipts and property values. Another item would be the number of households and businesses affected by the taking of property and the disturbance of traffic flow during construction. The planners would also examine the relative degree of improvement in traffic flow that might be expected from each option. Aesthetic and urban design issues would also be examined. When the impact assessments have been made, the preferred option can be selected. Note that it is often a good idea to bring affected parties such as property owners, residents, and businesspersons into the impact assessment and option-choosing process. First, they are likely to make useful contributions. Equally important, no plan can be implemented without political consent. It is better to resolve differences early around a conference table than later in the courts or the press.

The combined cost must also be ascertained to know whether it is manageable. If it is not, choices among goals must be made.

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