RSS Feed
No RSS feeds have been linked to this section.

Master Planning


By Charles Haar

The Master Plan, or Comprehensive Plan, is the planning document which gives a general framework which includes planning for the development of downtown, or the center city, area. Charles Haar1 has referred to the master plan as a form of “impermanent constitution.” Its purpose is to lay out a future for an area, and to provide reasonable certainty and predictability for potential investors.

The purposes of a master plan are numerous. The master plan should give direction for positive change, indicating how much and what kind of development is appropriate, and what is not. It should also give guidance for day-to-day decisions by city officials, since the planning commission and city council cannot and should not handle all the details of the development process. It should suggest the impact of changes over time. The plan can give better visual definition to the downtown—recommending height restrictions and setbacks, for example. It should include a plan for the regeneration of older, blighted areas, and also give outlines for concerns of historic character and the preservation of historic fabric. The master plan should deal with the timing of development, suggesting an appropriate time frame for the development or redevelopment of various areas. Finally, the plan should serve as a document for the common citizen to understand proposed changes and put them in a proper context, and it should define obligations for city officials and those that follow on appropriate decision-making.

Traditionally, the characteristics of a master plan are that it plans for the physical development of the downtown, that it is future oriented, and that it is geographically inclusive and looks at the entire downtown or center city. Elements of the plan will include a designation of permitted land uses, development of public facilities, and an analysis or transportation and circulation patterns. Such master plans are usually developed using the “rational planning process,” a process that includes the following steps.

  • survey and analysis of data
  • make projections into future
  • develop goals for future growth
  • establish planning policies based on goals
What the Master Plan should do…

    Give direction for positive change while keeping livability (guide how much development)

    Give guidance for day-to-day decisions

    Give better visual definition physically (height restrictions, open space) analyze impact of new development (especially the impact of new roads, sewer lines)

    Give guidance for redevelopment of older areas (blight removal vs. historic rehabilitation)

    Set and encourage proper timing for redevelopment (indicating incentives to promote necessary services or uses — e.g. to promote key worker housing or incubate small business)

    Should be clear enough for common citizen to comprehend

    Should be considered an obligation for an elected official


    Master Planning with Craig Niles, Vince Berkout & Carlos Frias download right click-save