Implementing the Plan

As noted earlier, the two most powerful tools for carrying out the physical side of the plan are capital investments as called for in the capital budget and land-use controls. Capital investments in roads, public facilities, and utilities create the basic conditions that permit development, which land-use controls then shape and channel. Ideally, capital investments and land-use controls should be consistent with one another and with the comprehensive plan. If coordination is lacking, the results are likely to be disappointing. For example, if capital investments create powerful pressures for development in areas that the comprehensive plan shows as developing at low density, the stage has been set for litigation, controversy, and frustration.

Review and Updating

Almost inevitably, community development will not unfold quite as envisioned in the master plan. Planning is anything but an exact science. Then, too, the pattern of development is shaped by all sorts of forces that are beyond community control and in many cases beyond prediction. Thus after a short time the community may not be quite where the plan would have it, and so some replanning will be necessary. Just as a navigator takes frequent bearings and replots the course accordingly, the community checks its situation periodically and adjusts its plans. But the analogy is not entirely accurate. In the case of the navigator, the destination remains the same. In the case of the municipality, the goals themselves may change as realities both inside and outside the municipality change.

For the plan to be effective over the long term, periodic review is essential. Ideally, the review applies to all the major plan elements. First, it applies to the database. Population, revenues, expenditures, housing stock, employment, and so on inevitably will not evolve exactly as predicted. Large disparities may show up fairly quickly. Consider, for example, cost projections for capital expenditures. A major component of the cost of capital expenditures is the cost of borrowing money, but predicting interest rates accurately over the long term lies somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible.

Beyond updating the database on which the plan rests, it is also necessary to update goals and strategies. Ideally, the municipal government will have a commitment to updating the plan at regular intervals. If this cannot be done, the plan loses its relationship to reality. If government personnel and citizens perceive the plan as a static and increasingly irrelevant document, it soon loses its political force. The act of updating the plan keeps it relevant and keeps the body politic committed to it. It also institutionalizes planning as an activity within the community.

Maintaining community interest in the planning process is one of the most important tasks of any planning agency. Thus public relations is a major aspect of successful planning. The planning director's speech to the Rotary Club, the appearance in a high school civics class, and the periodic newspaper article on what the city or town or county is planning for solid-waste disposal or parklands or economic development or housing or downtown business district revitalization are all part of that effort. In one southern town, planning agency staff have appeared in first- and second- grade classrooms and run 6- and 7-year-old children through a simple experience in laying out a neighborhood. That strategy may not pay off for a quarter of a century; but, then, planning is a long-term process.

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