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County considering changes to Comprehensive Plan, Land Development Code

By Allara Gutcher,
Land Use Planning Consultant
mail@prioritynews.net

Every parcel in the state of Florida has a Future Land Use designation assigned to it.

These categories can be found on the Future Land Use Map, which is adopted by ordinance by the local governing body as part of its Comprehensive Plan.

These designations are assigned by the local government that has the jurisdiction over it.

For example, in all areas that are not within a city limit in Gadsden County, the Board of County Commissioners ultimately decides what the category will be.

This decision is made after a recommendation by county staff and the local planning agency, which in Gadsden County is the Planning Commission.

By Florida Statute, the local planning agency must make a recommendation to the governing body on all changes to the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations. (See §163.3174, Florida Statutes)

The Comprehensive Plan is the overarching, guiding document for growth and development within the local government.

It states the goals, objectives, and policies (also known as strategies) for how the community will grow.

Any amendments or updates to this document has a process outlined by the Florida Legislature in the statutes.

This process requires hearings before the local planning agency, and a hearing before the governing agency.

There are some times that these amendments also have state oversight and must be processed through various state agencies such as the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Transportation, and the local water management district, among others.

The Land Development Regulations, also known as the Land Development Code, is the implementing document to the Comprehensive Plan.

It must be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

This document specifies more detailed development regulations such as building setbacks, subdivision regulations and environmental protection measures.

It doesn’t have state oversight like the Comprehensive Plan does, but can be as challenging to update due to the specifics and details it states.

When one policy or regulation changes, it may affect many others so understanding these documents together and in whole is very important.

Gadsden County is currently looking at these documents to potentially amend some of the current language.

Proposals for changes in the language are being formulated, and will be brought before the Planning Commission in future months.

Subsequently, the Board of County Commissioners will consider these amendments and ultimately decide whether or not to make the changes.

If changes are made, these will be voted on by ordinance.

In addition, the Board of County Commissioners is considering the implementation of zoning in the county.

Many people refer to the Future Land Use category as zoning, but they really represent different layers of policy and regulation. Where the Future Land Use Map is part of the Comprehensive Plan, the zoning map is part of the Land Development Regulations.

Typically, Future Land Use designations are broad in policy, where the zoning district will list specific regulations like building setbacks, specific types of allowable uses, and other development parameters.

Since the Land Development Regulations and zoning are decided and adopted by the local government with no state oversight, this reduces the processing time of changes to that document and map.

Allara Gutcher is a professional land use planning consultant located in northwest Florida. She is the principal of The Planning Collaborative. She served as the planning and community development director for the Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners from October 2013 through August 2016, and is now back working with Gadsden County as a consultant.