Building Communities

Getting Economic Development and Land-use Planning to Work Together

The Issue:  Getting economic development and land-use planning to work together
The Problem:  Economic development carried out independently of local land-use plans
The Symptoms:  Dissention and argument within the community over how to use its land resources
The Results:  Misdirected land-use policy;  allocation of land to projects lacking public support;  use of land inconsistent with the needs of local residents/ businesses and good conservation practice
The Solution:  Develop an economic development strategic plan before beginning any land-useplanning efforts

In city halls across the country, economic development directors and land-use planners work under the same roof, yet sometimes one would never know they work for the same city.  This can result in economic development projects that conflict with local land-use plans, although the fiscal and/or social ramifications of such conflicts might not surface until after projects are completed.

Consider, for example, addressing the problems that would arise after building an industrial park whose main access to the interstate highway was a road that was—on both sides—slated in a local land-use plan for residential development.  While the problems inherent in this example should have been obvious before action on the industrial park was ever taken, it serves as an example of what can result when community and economic development projects and land-use planning are done independently of one another.

It does not have to be this way.  It should not be this way.

Land-use planning is all about employing the community's land—arguably its most precious natural resource—to best serve the community's interests and goals.  Indeed, Mark Twain punctuated the value of a community's land when he quipped:  "Buy land, they're not making it anymore."  If a community's land is, in reality, this valuable, and if it is clear that community and economic development is likewise crucial to sustain a community's well-being or prosperity, what is not always clear for community advocates and local planning commissions is how to deal with land-use planning and economic development goals simultaneously.

Building Communities knows how to get economic development and land-use planning to work harmoniously with one another.  We also know that the very process of determining how to plan for using land can create controversy and dissention within a community.  This controversy is usually rooted in a community's lack of strategic direction.   For when a community is without a well-defined direction, it is difficult—if not impossible—for its leaders, businesses and citizens to agree on how to use its scarce land resources.  The result is often land-use policy or land allocations born of bitter compromise—policies and allocations which typically do not meet the needs of the community, which may not have widespread public support and/or which do not represent good conservation practice.

To remedy these problems and provide a framework in which argumentation over land use can be greatly mitigated, Building Communities conducts land-use planning only after a community has clearly defined its direction.  That is worth repeating:

  1. Define your strategic direction.
  2. Develop a land-use plan that follows your strategic direction.

A Building Communities economic development strategic plan (EDSP) developed during Plan Week enables communities to identify and select specific community and economic development strategies and initiatives.  Through this planning process, the community's unique land-development needs become clear.

There is no good reason that economic development and land-use plans should conflict.  There is likewise no need for communities to allow lack of strategic direction to compromise the value of one of their most valuable resources—their land—or jeopardize their future prosperity.   Choose the path that is unifying and productive.  Discuss with us how Plan Week can put your community on the right path.


©2017 Building Communities, Inc.