The Consistency Doctrine

Zoning Practice — August 2008

By Lora Lucero


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The zoning ordinance is the primary tool that communities use to regulate where, when, and how they will grow and develop. What role does the comprehensive (or general) plan play in the development review process?

In a democratic society, the residents of the community express their goals for the future by participating in a public planning process culminating in the adoption of the comprehensive plan, and by electing members of a local governing body to implement that plan. Local officials implement the community's plan by approving the capital infrastructure budget, adopting land-use regulations, such as zoning and subdivision ordinances, and approving or rejecting development applications. Connecting development and land-use decisions to the adopted plan is the best way to achieve the community's goals, or at least to increase the odds of achieving them.

This issue of Zoning Practice discusses the disconnections between plans and zoning ordinances and recommends that states and local communities put teeth into their plans by adopting the consistency doctrine: the logical connection or relationship between comprehensive plans and the regulatory tools designed to implement those plans.


Page Count
Date Published
Aug. 1, 2008
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American Planning Association

About the Author

Lora Lucero