What is a Comprehensive Plan?
A comprehensive plan can be called the local constitution for land use, providing the framework wherein a local government makes decisions about future development and change. It is a policy document, not a regulatory document. The zoning ordinance contains specific regulations which set the standards for how land is developed by regulating the sizes, locations, and uses of buildings. The comprehensive plan provides foundation policies and principles for implementing zoning.
The North Dakota Century Code allows counties, cities, and townships to exercise zoning authority but only with the condition that a comprehensive plan is utilized. The mandate for a county comprehensive plan is found in section 11-33-03 of the North Dakota Century.
Current Comprehensive Plan
The County’s existing Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2013. The Plan includes some general policies that relate to future growth and a land use map. Unfortunately, there is a significant divide between existing development areas and what is shown on the Comprehensive Plan land use map. This gap has continued to grow over the past two years. In particular, many areas designated as Agriculture in the Plan have been subdivided and developed for industrial, commercial, and residential growth—clearly land uses not compatible with the preservation of agricultural areas. Other large tracts of land designated for residential, commercial, and industrial use have not been touched by recent growth—it has become obvious that the direction of growth is not what it was anticipated to be when the current Plan was created.
A clean slate will be created to start a new Comprehensive Plan land use map. Existing development areas will be identified and documented so the public and decision makers can have a clear picture of existing land uses as of 2015. Creating an existing land use map will serve as the basis for creating a Comprehensive Plan land use map.
The Need for a Long Term Comprehensive Plan Land Use Map
A Comprehensive Plan land use map identifies not only existing development areas, but also areas planned for future growth. The desired result is a map that guides development activity to areas designated for growth and directs specific zoning decisions within those areas.
Starting with existing conditions, careful consideration will be given to population, housing, and employment projections, infrastructure availability (existing and planned water, sewer, roads), and availability of public services (fire protection, schools, etc.). Just as important is input from McKenzie County leaders and the public. The careful consideration of all noted aspects will provide a Comprehensive Plan land use map that can be utilized as a dependable guide for future growth; and, most importantly, a map that is subject to limited amendment on an annual basis.
The Need for a Practical Document
While the existing goals, objectives, and strategies provided in the Comprehensive Plan are good, positive statements, it does not provide specific direction on how to implement the Comprehensive Plan. To be useful, the Comprehensive Plan must be clear on how it will be implemented over time so that staff and decision makers can plan accordingly. The Plan update will provide specific implementation actions that can be utilized to not only implement the plan, but to also monitor the progress at which the plan is being implemented.