What is a Comprehensive Plan?

A Comprehensive Plan is a guiding document defining a general vision for a community’s long-term future. The Comprehensive Plan (“Plan”) considers previous and existing conditions, trends, goals and objectives, and desirable future situations. Based on public input and consideration of current conditions, the Plan outlines what the community wants to look like in the next twenty or more years and how it can get there. It is a legal document as adopted by local jurisdictions to guide public and private development through the short and long-term future.  It is also the basis for adoption of administrative ordinances, review of land use proposals and development of other plans affecting the cultural and natural environment.

Public participation and input from local citizens is important in the development of the Plan ensuring it represents the desires and needs of the community.

Are Comprehensive Plans Required? The Idaho Local Land Use Planning Act (ILLUPA) requires that planning and zoning commissions in each City and County develop and adopt a Plan. This requirement is not unique to Idaho. In fact, the primary responsibility shared by planning commissions nationwide involves the design, and development of a comprehensive plan.

Elements of the Plan:  The Plan reflects the general goals of the community and sets forth policies to attain these goals.  The Plan is a projection of how present conditions can be improved upon through the meeting of these goals, application of the policies, and implementation of an agenda for action.

The Plan identifies:

  1. Goals and policies to guide development, preserve and build upon the unique sense of community, and
  2. A “Future Land Use Map” that outlines a general pattern of development, preservation and land use. This is not a zoning map, with boundaries reflecting a generalized pattern of development. 

Local communities are guided in their planning efforts by ILLUPA, which defines the Plan’s minimum geographic scope, considerations to take into account, and means of presenting information. Every Plan must either address or provide justification for omitting the following 17 topics as set forth in ILLUPA (Idaho Code §67-6508)

  1. Property rights;
  2. Population;
  3. School facilities and transportation;
  4. Economic development;
  5. Land use;
  6. Natural resources;
  7. Hazardous areas;
  8. Public services, facilities, and utilities;
  9. Transportation
  10. Recreation
  11. Special areas or sites;
  12. Housing;
  13. Community design;
  14. Agriculture;
  15. Implementation;
  16. National interest electric transmission corridors;
  17. Public airport facilities.

While ILLUPA requires that Idaho cities and counties develop comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances, the act offers planners limited direction as to how they should address these 17 topics.

Living Document: The Plan should act as a living document with annual reviews and updates scheduled to assure it continues to reflect current conditions and values. Annual tracking of the implementation processes outlined in various policies set forth in the Plan will facilitate the meeting of intended goals.  It is also recommended that a comprehensive review occur every five years to provide a more complete update, ensuring the Plan best reflects future conditions and values.

In Summary, the Plan provides a guideline to assure that future land use decisions reflect the recognized vision for the community as identified in the elements of the Plan.

It should always be remembered that the Plan is:

  • Generalized: Provides general guidance and direction for a community’s growth and development.
  • Comprehensive: Addresses elements or components felt to be important in affecting the physical, economic and social concerns of the community.
  • Long Range: Presents a long term vision for the community.
  • Not Stagnant: The Plan should evolve through time through periodic review and updating.

The Plan serves as a basis for:

  • Development and amendment of administrative tools such as zoning and subdivision ordinance, and
  • Review of land use proposals, and
  • Amendment of the zoning map, and
  • Developing and amending strategic, capital improvement and other plans, and
  • Annual review and development of budgets, etc.

Local Jurisdictions

Bonner County is fortunate enough to have its own planning department, which puts its resources toward fulfilling its state-mandated duty of maintaining a Bonner County Comprehensive Plan. The County adopted its first comprehensive plan in 1978, three years after ILLUPA was enacted, with the Plan changing significantly since then. The Property Rights component was added in 2001, and a major update to the Plan was completed in 2005. The county describes the plan as a “living document,” which is updated as new information becomes available or changes in trends or conditions are observed.

Local Cities:   The City of Dover is currently in the process of updating its Plan. Other cities are not currently in the process of updating their Plans. You can view the existing local City plans on our City Resources page.