AMA – Why Do We Need A General Plan?

Today we’ll be delving into the critical question, one submitted by Steve during an AMA (Ask Me Anything) episode on my podcast – Why Do We need A General Plan?

The Purpose and Necessity of a General Plan

Land use is a complex web of legislation involving multiple levels of government and the law does indeed mandate cities to have a general plan. These plans function as guides for future development and can accommodate for the natural features of the land which often dictate the direction of development flow. These natural boundaries and other constraints, such as designated protected habitats, determine the intricacies of land use.

They also consider various aspects like population growth, traffic patterns, and the requirement for community amenities. While zoning often describes current and approved uses of the land, a general plan foresees potential future uses or changes. But like any plan, it is imperfect and will encounter realities it failed to account for. However, one must be careful; failing to plan adequately for growth can lead to negative consequences, such as costly expropriation processes.

From Plan to Reality

When it comes to requesting a zoning change, these are usually acts of council which require approval via a thorough process. If the zoning change is in keeping with the general plan, it tends to be approved without much hassle. However, if the requested change conflicts with the general plan, a proposal for a general plan amendment is usually required, adding another layer of effort.

Often, the approval of a zoning change or general plan amendment depends on the potential benefits for the local community, such as the creation of more parking for, say, a newly proposed hotel. Mobility projects, such as the widening of roads, or the construction of new public structures, are also commonly subject to general plan amendments.

General Plans within Legal Hierarchies

It’s pertinent to remember the role of cities within the larger hierarchy of laws. Cities are the enactment of state or provincial legislatures, and as such, their power is derived from that level of government. All regulations, including general plans, follow this hierarchy.

Checklist Items Why it Matters
Understanding Zoning Laws Know the current approved uses for a property
Comprehending the General Plan Get an idea about potential future changes for the area
Learning about the Amendment Process Plan ahead for zoning changes that conflict with the general plan
Urban Design and Natural Boundaries Understand how natural features can affect development
Legal Hierarchies Understand where cities fit within the hierarchy of laws and how it impacts decision-making

Thank you for engaging in this discussion, and I hope you found this insightful. Don’t forget to send your questions for future AMA episodes. Until next time, go out there and make some great things happen!

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