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Possibly in my Backyard: The Importance of Comprehensive Plans and Their Role in Shaping Communities

Land use issues can often be the source of disputes between property owners, government entities, and community members. These issues can range from zoning regulations to property line disputes and can have a significant impact on property values, development plans, and the overall character of a community. The constant battle between development and preservation is a common issue in land use law. On one hand, developers may seek to maximize the potential use of their land for commercial or residential purposes, often to the detriment of existing structures or natural resources. While on the other hand, preservationists may advocate for the protection of historic landmarks or environmentally sensitive areas, sometimes at the expense of potential economic development. Finding a balance between development and preservation can be a difficult task and often requires careful consideration of legal, economic, and environmental factors. Though each application is unique, land use decision-makers must rely upon standardized rules and objectives when considering applications. In Kentucky, planners utilize a comprehensive plan for this purpose.

In 1966, the Kentucky General Assembly created uniform legislation for land use planning throughout the Commonwealth in an effort to respond to increased development and environmental concerns associated with rapid population changes.[1] The 1966 legislation permitted the formation of three types of planning units; independent cities or counties; joint cities and counties; or regional units made up of groups of counties and their cities.[2] Perhaps the most significant aspect of the 1966 legislation was the requirement of planning units to devise a comprehensive plan.[3]

A comprehensive plan is a long-range plan that outlines the goals, policies, and strategies for the physical, social, and economic development of a community. It provides a framework for decision making by local governments and serves as a guide for the development of zoning regulations, capital improvements, and other land use policies.[4] A comprehensive plan must contain the following[5]:

  1. Goals and objectives;
  2. Land use plan;
  3. Transportation plan;
  4. Community facilities plan; and
  5. Accommodation of military installations

In order for a planning commission to grant an amendment to the zone map (otherwise known as a zone change request), the planning commission is required to make a finding that the map amendment is in agreement with the adopted comprehensive plan.[6] If the proposed map amendment is not in agreement with the comprehensive plan, the commission must determine either that the proposed zoning classification is more appropriate than the existing classification, or that there have been major changes within the area involved that were not anticipated in the adopted comprehensive plan.[7] As a result, the comprehensive plan is an essential tool for the community to guide land use decisionmakers.

Comprehensive plans must be reviewed every five years and, if necessary, amended.[8] In Woodford County, the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Joint Planning Commission last updated its comprehensive plan in 2018, which means the joint planning commission will review and adopt an update in 2023. Similarly, in Fayette County, the Urban County Planning Commission adopted its last update to the comprehensive plan in 2018 and is currently discussing whether to expand the urban service boundary.[9]

The first step in adopting an updated comprehensive plan includes the planning commission preparing and adopting goals and objectives, which are used as a guide for the preparation of the remaining elements of the comprehensive plan.[10] In formulating the goals and objectives, the planning commission must consult with public officials and agencies; boards of health; school boards; public and private utility companies; civic, educational, professional, and other organizations; and with citizens.[11] The planning commission is required to hold a public hearing and adopt the elements.[12]

Given the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission is a joint planning commission, the City of Versailles, the City of Midway, and the Woodford County Fiscal Court are each required to consider the proposed statements of goals and objectives.[13] Throughout the process, citizens have the opportunity to become engaged and advocate for specific policies.

You should become involved with the adoption of a comprehensive plan by the planning commission and local governments because it provides an opportunity to shape the future of your community. The comprehensive plan is a long-term, strategic planning document that outlines goals and policies related to land use, transportation, housing, economic development, and other key areas of community life. It serves as a roadmap for decision-making and guides future growth and development.

By engaging with the comprehensive plan adoption process, you can help to ensure that the plan reflects your values and priorities. Citizens can provide input on issues that matter to them, such as affordable housing, environmental protection, or transportation infrastructure. This input can help to shape the policies and initiatives outlined in the plan and ensure that it reflects the needs and desires of the community.

Engaging with the comprehensive plan adoption process can also promote transparency and accountability in the planning process. By attending public meetings and providing feedback, citizens can hold their elected officials and planning commission members accountable for their decisions. This can help to ensure that the planning process is open and inclusive, and that decisions are made in the best interest of the community.

Overall, your engagement in the comprehensive plan adoption process can help to promote a more sustainable, equitable, and livable community. By working together to create a shared vision for the future, you can help to shape a community that reflects their values and meets their needs.

[1] Tarlock, A. Dan, “Kentucky Planning and Land Use Control Enabling Legislation: An Analysis of the 1966 Revision of K.R.S. Chapter 100″ Kentucky Law Journal (1967).

[2] KRS 100.113

[3] KRS 100.183

[4] KRS 100.187

[5] KRS 100.187

[6] KRS 100.213

[7] Id.

[8] KRS 100.197

[9] See

[10] KRS 100.193

[11] Id.

[12] KRS 100.197


The content of this blog is for informational and educational purposes only and is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, current or representative of your geographic area. The above is not intended to be a solicitation for service  or legal advice and Rouse and Rouse, PLLC makes no warranty, expressed or implied, about the accuracy or reliability of the information in this blog, this website or in any linked website. A viewer of this content should not act or refrain from acting without seeking appropriate legal advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from an attorney licensed in the viewer’s state.

Steele Rouse is an associate attorney at Rouse & Rouse Attorneys with a diverse practice focusing on real estate, probate, estate planning, and land use. Prior to joining Rouse & Rouse, Steele served as a Staff Attorney for the Hon. Phillip J. Shepherd, Chief Judge of the Franklin Circuit Court. Steele lives and practices in Woodford County and serves clients throughout central Kentucky.

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