Posted on Jan 12, 2018
by Jennifer Bragar
Ed Sullivan and I co-author the annual comprehensive plan update for the American Bar Association’s State and Local Government Law Section. The most recent update was just published by the Urban Lawyer and you can read about it here. Urban Lawyer, Vol. 49, No. 3 Summer 2017. The article undertakes an annual survey of state and federal cases dealing with the role of the comprehensive plan (sometimes called the “General” or “Master” plan) in land use regulation. That survey and this resulting article illustrate trends in the current use of three modes of perception regarding comprehensive plans by state legislatures and state courts. The first mode, the “unitary view,” is that planning is neither essential nor possibly even relevant to zoning and land use regulation, and it is the local zoning ordinance that is dispositive. The second view, the “planning factor view,” is that a plan is relevant, but not necessarily dispositive of the validity of a land use regulation. The final view, the “planning mandate” view, is that planning is essential to land use regulation. Please review the article for specific examples and commentary on each of these views.
The trend in case law in this update demonstrates increased respect for comprehensive planning, less tolerance for the view that zoning regulations are isolated from their planning roots, and more emphasis on the role of planning when plans are amended or interpreted. As the plan grows in importance, more judicial attention is now given to the process and standards by which plan amendments are undertaken, as well as in the interpretation of plans. We hope you enjoy the article and that the update assists you in your land use battles.