Community Development FAQs

Here is a list of some common questions about various plans we create and what we do:

What is a General Plan?
A General Plan can also be referred to as a comprehensive plan.  It is a "general" policy document that guides community growth and development decisions.  It is a long-range process that typically looks 15 to 20 years in scope, though it should be revisited approximately every five to seven years.  It is a "law" document and the elements written within are not binding on the public.  

The purpose of a General Plan is to create a "planning toolbox" for community development staff members to use in writing ordinances and codes.  In fact, it is the primary tool for guiding the future development of the city.  The city faces tough choices about growth, housing, transportation, neighborhood improvement, and service delivery.  A General Plan provides a guide for making these choices by describing long-term goals for the city's future as well as policies to guide day-to-day decisions.  The General Plan must also be applicable to the town's diverse and ever-changing community principles.

What is a Master Plan?
A Master Plan is a plan for a large area that may address land use, landscaping, infrastructure, circulation or the provision of services.  A master plan is not a long-range guide like a general plan, but rather a more descriptive layout to goals that are ready to be implemented.  This plan usually falls into a three- to five-year time frame and should generally not be continued beyond that time frame without being revisited.

What is a Specific / Area Plan?
A Specific Plan or Area Plan is a plan for a specific portion of the city or a plan for a specific municipal function in the city which has been approved by the Planning Commission and/or adopted by the City Council.  An example of this would be if the city paid a designer to prepare a layout and design of a city center and then put it out for bid by developers, rather than letting the developers come up with a design that may not have certain specified elements within it.

What are Ordinances and Codes?
City ordinances, codes, and associated maps are legal instruments that define with significant precision the allowable land uses and associated performance standards for every property within a municipal jurisdiction.  The vision outlined in the General Plan is the tool that helps guide city officials in creating, amending, and updating these laws.

What are Development Guidelines?
Development guidelines are oftentimes found in ordinances but may also exist as a separate document.  Development guidelines lay out the different processes involved with completing a development.  Guidelines are tailored to the desired visual and aesthetic theme of the city and are an extension of the General Plan or an area master plan, and yet can hold the legal power of a city code.  Development guidelines often address such things as size and type of street lighting, sidewalk standards, building orientation, materials, etc.