Comprehensive Plan

What is a Comprehensive Plan?

The comprehensive plan communicates a community’s goals and objectives, provides a blueprint for future land use, and serves as the basis for zoning, subdivision, and land use codes. A comprehensive plan is a document consisting of text and a series of maps that:

  • Identifies a community’s goals and sets forth its vision for the future;
  • As part of its formulation, reaches out to a diverse group of stakeholders for their help, ideas, and expertise in the developing those goals and identifying the actions needed to achieve them; and
  • Provides guidance for establishing the laws, policies, and programs to achieve implementation, including sometimes a master plan.

Delaware Code Requirements

More than just a helpful guide, the comprehensive plan is a requirement for all local governments in Delaware, and it is treated as law. Title 22, Chapter 7, Section 702 of the Delaware Code requires Delaware municipalities to prepare comprehensive plans that “[encourage] the most appropriate uses of physical and fiscal resources of the municipality and the coordination of municipal growth, development, and infrastructure investment actions with those of other municipalities, counties and the State.”  Delaware counties are also required to prepare and adopt comprehensive plans. The standards for county comprehensive plans are found in Title 9 of the Delaware Code.

Comprehensive plans for cities and towns having populations under 2,000 persons, must adopt a municipal development strategy. Larger cities and towns must develop more detailed comprehensive land use plans. Each Delaware municipality must review its adopted comprehensive plan at least every five years to determine if its provisions are still relevant. In addition, an adopted comprehensive plan must be revised, updated and amended as necessary, and readopted at least every 10 years.


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