Understanding Plan Consistency’s Role in Implementing Change

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Learning Outcomes

  • Compare different states' regulatory consistency requirements and mechanics.
  • Determine how communities can use consistency to implement and cement broad, systematic changes related to equity, housing, economic restructuring, climate change, and other contemporary issues.
  • Assess best practices from the latest research and the Daniel Burnham Award-winning plan that defines consistency and decision criteria.

Course Details

When the City of Minneapolis adopted its most recent comprehensive plan update, it was reported that the city "abolished single-family zoning." National attention focused on zoning although the city had not yet touched it. What was missed, however, was that once the policy was in the comprehensive plan, Minneapolis was obligated to take action because of the consistency requirement in Minnesota law. Now, a pending lawsuit challenging the plan threatens to upend the city’s actions.

The primary aim of any comprehensive plan should be its implementation. Regulatory consistency with the comprehensive plan can play a powerful role in achieving plan implementation. However, the role of consistency remains misunderstood in planning practice. This is true in states with strict consistency requirements, like California and Florida, and loose ones, like Tennessee and North Carolina. To be effective change agents in communities, planners must understand the mechanics of consistency to ensure planning goals translate to lasting and defensible implementation.

This presentation builds off research in two recent APA publications that describe creating and implementing plans in states with consistency statutes and describes experiences in drafting consistency statutes in Minnesota and other states.