Comprehensive Plan Process

The PA Municipalities Planning Code a “County Comprehensive Plan” as “a land use and growth management plan prepared by the county planning commission and adopted by the county commissioners which establishes broad goals and criteria for municipalities to use in preparation of their comprehensive plan and land use regulation.” 

 All comprehensive plans are subject to the following four common criteria: 

  1. Contain basic plan elements set forth in Section 301(a); 
  2. Contain a plan for the reliable supply of water, considering current and future water resources availability; 
  3. Be reviewed every 10 years, and 
  4. “…identify those areas where growth and development will occur so that a full range of public infrastructure, including sewer, water, highways, police and fire protection, public schools, parks open space and other services can be adequately planned and provided as needed to accommodate growth.” 

County comprehensive plans have an additional set of requirements. MPC Section 301 (7) requires a county plan to: 

  • Identify land uses as they relate to important natural resources and appropriate utilization of existing minerals.
  • Identify current and proposed land use which have a regional impact and significance, such as large shopping centers, major industrial parks, mines and related activities, office parks, storage facilities, large residential developments, regional entertainment and recreational complexes, hospitals, airports and port facilities. 
  • Identify a plan for the preservation and enhancement of prime agricultural land and encourage the compatibility of land use regulation with existing agricultural operations. 
  • Identify a plan for historic preservation.

 In addition, counties are required to update the comprehensive plan every ten years.


MPC Section 301.2 regarding surveys by planning agencies states that: “In preparing the comprehensive plan, the planning agency shall make careful surveys, studies and analyses of housing, demographic and economic characteristics and trends; amount, type and general location and interrelationships of different categories of land use; general location and extent of transportation and community facilities; natural features affecting development; natural, historic and cultural resources; and the prospects for future growth in the municipality.” 

The studies performed in the areas referred to above attempt to objectively analyze the community from a number of different perspectives. Each individual study takes an in-depth look at a specific topic. When completed, each study or survey will then lend support to the development of the plan. Various sources must be utilized to gather the data necessary to prepare the studies.

 Historical documents, municipal records, soil and geological surveys, various census reports and other sources of information are essential. From these reports, surveys and documents, the facts and trends can be analyzed to develop the basic assumptions and projections necessary for the development of the comprehensive plan

. These background studies and surveys describe the natural and man-made conditions, community facilities and socioeconomic trends that affect the pattern of development. They should comprise the best available information for determining which uses are best suited to given areas of the community. In addition to mapping data about natural features such as terrain and existing man-made improvements, these studies will also shed light on the probable magnitude, direction, and characteristics of future development pressures.