Growth Policy in Other States

Like Tennessee, a number of states across the country have enacted growth policy legislation.  Some of these states are listed below with a short summary of their laws, together with the links to the corresponding official sites.  Information about some states that have no mandate is also included.

Arizona has a mandatory planning law.  It requires all counties to form a planning and zoning commission and to plan and provide for future growth and improvements in the jurisdiction with the preparation and adoption of a comprehensive plan.  The law specifies the minimum contents of the plan.  There are additional requirements for counties with a population over 125,000 and more for places over 200,000.

A similar requirement governs municipalities.  They have the option to create a planning commission.  If they do create a commission, the municipalities are then required to prepare and adopt a comprehensive plan that meets requirements outlined in the law.  There is also a requirement that the state create conceptual land use plans for all urban state trust lands.  Local plans are coordinated with the state plan to determine if the state plan should be folded into the local plan.1

In 1985, Florida adopted the Local Government Comprehensive Planning and Land Development Regulation Act, a broad-based act giving the state substantial oversight of local plans based on the established state goals and policies.  The law included a concurrency requirement to insure that adequate infrastructure was available to service proposed new developments.  The Act was amended in 2011 to remove certain aspects of state oversight including aspects of the concurrency section.  Now known as the Community Planning Act, the law still requires that the state and its local governments prepare and adopt comprehensive plans.  The concurrency requirement now applies only to sewer, solid waste, drainage and potable water, though local governments may extend concurrency to other facilities if they choose. The law also requires the state to prepare a comprehensive plan.

The law requires that all local governments establish and appoint a local planning agency.  The agency may be named a planning commission, and it is charged with developing a comprehensive plan and recommending it to the legislative body for adoption.  Once adopted, the plan becomes a legal document, and all developments and actions of the local government must be consistent with the plan.2

The Georgia Planning Act, initially adopted in 1989 and since amended several times, has very detailed and comprehensive requirements for local planning and development.  It does not mandate that all local governments adopt a comprehensive plan; however, the law does create “qualified local governments.”  These units (QLGs) qualify for a variety of grants and loans from the state.  The Department of Community Affairs administers the program and may limit grants or loans to qualified local governments.  The law states further that the department shall disburse the grants and loans on the basis of a number of criteria, one of which is coordinated and comprehensive planning in accordance with minimum standards and procedures.  Local governments that are not qualified do not get these grants and loans.The law also created regional commissions made up of identified territory comprised of multiple cities and counties.  There are 12 regional commissions in the state.  The regional commission must also prepare a comprehensive plan that meets state goals.  All regional and local plans are coordinated.4

The state of Illinois does not have a mandatory planning law.  Any municipality may create a plan commission or a planning department or both.  If created according to law, the plan commission is authorized to prepare a comprehensive plan and to adopt such plan.  The plan shall not become effective until the municipal corporate authorities adopt it.5

County planning is authorized under another section of the state code.  Counties may create a regional planning commission, which has the authority to prepare and adopt a regional plan.6

The Local Land Resource Management Planning Act states that its purpose is to encourage municipalities and counties to protect the land, air, water, natural resources and environment of the State and to encourage the use of such resources in a manner which is socially and economically desirable through the adoption of joint or compatible Local Land Resource Management Plans.7

The state of Maine has a statewide Land Use Planning Commission, an entity that is charged with the responsibility for planning and zoning in unorganized and deorganized areas of the state, including townships and plantations unlike other state commissions.  These areas either have no local government or have chosen not to administer land use controls at the local level.8

The municipalities are encouraged by state law to establish a program of comprehensive planning and land use management.9  Additionally, each municipality may establish a growth management program.  If the growth management program is created, it must include a comprehensive plan.  The law lists a number of requirements that must be addressed in the plan, including the designation of growth areas and rural areas.10

Minnesota has a two tier system for comprehensive planning and land use control.  The first is for cities that are located outside of the Metro area of the twin cities.  Cities are authorized to adopt a comprehensive plan, zoning and subdivision regulations by the Municipal Planning Act.  This authority is permissive, not required.  The cities and counties may also come together to form a Regional Planning Board of all the jurisdictions within the proposed region.  The board may prepare and adopt a regional development plan for the development of the region.  This plan must be submitted to all jurisdictions for recommendations prior to its adoption by the board.11

A Metropolitan Council consisting of the seven counties around the twin cities is authorized to be established, and if established, would have the authority to adopt a comprehensive plan.  When so adopted, the Council can review all locally adopted plans to determine compatibility and consistency with the Council plan.12

Counties with a population under 300,000 according to the 1950 Census may also carry on planning and zoning activities as a permissive activity.13

North Carolina:
In 2019, the North Carolina legislature enacted major changes to the previous planning laws.  The new law consolidated the city and county authority into one chapter, Chapter 160D, of the North Carolina General Statutes, and incorporated related sections into the same chapter.  A major change was that the law now includes a requirement that any local government that adopts or enforces a zoning ordinance must adopt a comprehensive plan.  The plan would contain all the policy recommendations for future growth and development and must be reasonably maintained to keep it up to date.  It is also required that the plan be adopted by the legislative body although the plan will still be advisory.  Counties located in the coastal zone have had a plan requirement since the early 1970s.

Additionally, the law broadened and clarified the types of statutory vested rights.  Each category of statutory vesting has a specified term for vesting in the approval:  one year to commence work under development permits, two to five years for site-specific development plans (based on development agreements), and seven years for multi-phased developments.  If a development as approved does not proceed, the vesting rights can be lost.14  Ordinances must be updated by January 1, 2021 while the adoption of a comprehensive plan must be completed by July 1, 2022.

A comprehensive law adopted in 1973, the Land Conservation and Development Act, established requirements for statewide and local planning in the state.  It has since been amended many times.  The statewide program for land use planning is founded on a set of 19 Statewide Land Use Planning Goals.  The goals express the state's policies on land use and related topics, like growth boundaries, citizen involvement, housing, and natural resources.  The goals are mandatory for local governments within one year after adoption or amendment to the goals.  All local governments are required to make and adopt a comprehensive plan and the zoning and other regulations to implement the plan.  These plans must be consistent with the planning goals.  The plans must also include an urban growth boundary to accommodate 20 years of growth.  In an article written for the Environmental Law Reporter, the program was described as “land use planning in Oregon is not advisory, but an integrated hierarchy of legally binding Goals, plans, and regulations.”15

In Oregon, the law was adopted by referendum.  This land use planning law has survived three challenges by referendum and was last amended in 2015.16

Planning in Vermont is not mandatory but is permissive.  As a part of the Planning and Development Act, the state adopts goals for land use planning.  A municipality may create a planning commission and may adopt a comprehensive plan.  If the plan is adopted, it must include the state goals and must be approved by the appropriate regional planning commission.  An approved plan is required in order to qualify for certain state grants.  The plan is also required for a municipality to adopt zoning and subdivision regulations.  Adopted plans must be reviewed at least twice every eight years by the regional planning commission to determine that the plan continues to meet all the goals.17

Regional planning commissions may be created by voters or by a combination of municipalities of the region.  Once created, the regional commission must develop a plan that is consistent with the state goals and other requirements in the law.18


1 Titles 9, 11, and 37, Arizona Revised Statutes, 2019.

2 Titles 11, 12, and 13, The Florida Statutes, 2019.

3 GA Code § 50-8-8 (2018).

4 GA Code § 50-8-50 (2018).

5 (65 ILCS 5/) Illinois Municipal Code, Article 11, Division 12, Plan Commissions.

6 (55 ILCS 5/5-14001), Chapter 34, part 5-14, Regional Planning.

7 (50 ILCS 805/3), Chapter. 85, part 5802, Local Land Resource Management Planning Act.

8 Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Land Use Planning Commission, November 1, 2017.

9 Title 30-A, Maine Revised Statutes, Chapter 187, Planning and Land Use Regulation, October 1, 2019.

10 Ibid.

11 Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 462, Planning, Zoning, 2019.

12 Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 473, Metropolitan Government, 2019.

13 Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 394, Planning, Development, Zoning, 2019.

14 Adam Lovelady and David W. Owens, 2019 North Carolina Legislation Related to Planning and Development Regulation, UNC School of Government, Planning and Zoning Law Bulletin, No. 28, September 2019.

15 Environmental Law Reporter, Oregon's Comprehensive Growth Management Program: An Implementation Review and Lessons for Other States, Robert L. Liberty, 1992.

16 CityLab, Oregon’s Single-Family Zoning Ban Was a Long Time Coming, Laura Bliss, July 2, 2019.

17, 24 VSA, Chapter 117.

18 Ibid.