Planning is a decision-making process. Goals and objectives are established, existing resources and conditions analyzed, strategies developed, and controls enacted to achieve the goals and objectives as they relate to cities and communities.

In Georgia, all communities are required to prepare a Comprehensive Plan. The development of a plan consists of a three step process which covers: an inventory and assessment; a statement of needs and goals; and an implementation strategy.

The inventory and assessment portion of the plan looks at what a community has and what needs to be done. For example, an inventory is generally made of the community’s population, land use and development trends and such community facilities as water and sewer, streets, and public buildings. Then an assessment is normally done of these features to determine the status of current growth, population distributions, community facilities and so forth. From this assessment, community issues like land use conflicts, population gains or losses, and inadequate or surplus community facilities can be revealed.

The needs and goals are gleaned from the previous appraisal. For instance, if an assessment of development shows land use conflicts, then there may be a need for land use policies that prevent such conflicts. Once this becomes a priority for the local government, goals are established that establish the direction of land use policies in a community.

The community’s implementation strategy becomes its road map to the future. Land use, transportation, community facility plans to name a few, are developed to guide the future development of the community. These plans identify future residential, commercial and industrial areas, the street and road system needed to serve these areas, and community services and facilities that are required to support the future population.

Zoning is one tool used by a community to implement a Comprehensive Plan (i.e. land use, transportation, and community facilities). How, where and what density a community is planned to grow is programmed into the zoning regulations. Zoning keeps the land use equation consistent; thus, the development of community facilities and services for forthcoming residents of a city or county should be adequate to meet their needs.