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Great Lakes Sustainable Land Use

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Land Use Planning in the Great Lakes Region
Planning is a process whereby citizens and their locally-elected representatives form and document a vision for how, when and why their communities should or should not grow and develop. That vision is most clearly expressed in a document called a comprehensive plan (U.S.) or an official plan (Canada).

U.S. states have their own planning and zoning laws. In turn, states authorize local governments to develop and adopt comprehensive plans and/or zoning ordinances. No Great Lakes states require local governments to plan or zone, and only New York, Pennsylvania and Minnesota (and effective January 2010, also Wisconsin) require zoning to be consistent with a comprehensive plan. All Great Lakes states are "home rule" states, whereby planning authority is delegated to local municipalities (e.g., cities, towns/townships, villages). 

Great Lakes regional and metropolitan planning organizations (RPOs and MPOs) help local governments coordinate their planning efforts. Although they have no land use planning authority, RPOs and MPOS do have transportation planning authority which has a direct impact on other planning efforts and land development patterns.

Theoretically, zoning is a tool for implementing comprehensive plans. However, because zoning and subdivision ordinances carry the force of law and comprehensive plans do not, much "land use planning" is based on zoning and subdivision regulations that favor sprawl.

Ontario municipalities have official plans which lay out long-term frameworks for urban growth. Official plans are implemented through secondary plans and zoning. By law, secondary plans, zoning and public works must be consistent with the official plan. However, official plans are not required to be consistent with the Provincial Planning Act rules for land use planning.

Great Lakes Planning Organizations
(listed by state/province)