Reconsidering the Role of Consistency in Plan Implementation

Zoning Practice — February 2021

By John Zeanah, AICP


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Consistency ensures that zoning and day-to-day land- use decisions are made in harmony with a community's comprehensive (or general) plan. While consistency arose from aims of cities to manage mostly outward growth, the trend of development away from cities has changed in recent years. Given trends of growth back into cities, consistency is still as relevant as during the growth management era. But for this tool to be effective, planners must consider how consistency can be defined and positioned flexibly to meet the dynamic environment of the developed city. How should the comprehensive plan address consistency? Is this tool still relevant for planners today?

This issue of Zoning Practice considers how consistency is used in plan implementation to align zoning regulations and land use decisions with local plans. It makes recommendations based on case examples from across the United States for how planners and municipalities can build consistency by building stronger links between local codes, regulatory mechanisms, and existing local planning processes.


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Date Published
Feb. 1, 2021
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American Planning Association

About the Author

John Zeanah, AICP
JOHN ZEANAH, AICP is the Director of the Memphis and Shelby County Division of Planning and Development. In this role, he leads a cross-functional agency responsible for planning, zoning, and construction permitting throughout the largest county in Tennessee. Among his accomplishments, John led the development and adoption of the Memphis 3.0 Comprehensive Plan, the City’s first comprehensive plan in 40 years and winner of the American Planning Association’s Daniel Burnham Award of Excellence for a Comprehensive Plan in 2020 and a Charter Award from the Congress for the New Urbanism in 2021. John has also led the city and county’s housing policy plan, climate action and resilience plans, and improvements to development review and permitting. John holds a BA in Political Science from Rhodes College and a Master of City and Regional Planning from the University of Memphis.