Implementing Community Visions Through 'Consistency'
Being consistent with the Comprehensive Plan is a vital component of the planning process. The public trusts that when the PLAN is adopted - it will be followed. As the Local Planning Agency for Hillsborough County, the Planning Commission is responsible to review amendments to the Comprehensive Plan as well as rezonings for consistency with the publicly adopted Comprehensive Plan. We were pleased the findings of the recent countywide Planning Audit affirmed that "Based upon our review, the Planning Commission is performing the duties required by statute."
Ensuring rezonings are consistent with the Comprehensive Plan is important, because they are a primary means of making the community's vision for its quality of life a reality. It's one way the public trusts the jurisdictions in Hillsborough County put their Comprehensive Plans into action.
The Land Development Code is the right tool to detail how the Plan's policies should be put into effect. For example, the Comprehensive Plan for Unincorporated Hillsborough County has policies calling for recreation and open space within new residential developments. To fulfill this policy direction, the Land Development Code was modified to require a percentage of property to be set aside for recreation and open space in new subdivisions and multi-family developments.
Another method by which the Comprehensive Plan is implemented in the community is with the rezoning of property. Zoning categories specifically outline the list of uses allowed on a property and the standards those uses have to meet. A rezoning takes the policy framework of the Comprehensive Plan, particularly the Land Use Map, and assigns a appropriate zoning district that meets the objective of a particular land use classification.
All of these implement the more general direction of the Plan and the Future Land Use categories and provide a very transparent way to implement each jurisdiction's adopted Comprehensive Plan and the desired goals, objectives and policies expressed and expected by the community. As part of the review process, Planning Commission staff prepares a report outlining findings with staff analysis of the application, providing each jurisdiction with a recommendation on consistency with the Comprehensive Plan.
Staff also attends Zoning Hearing Master hearings, City Council meetings and County Commission meetings to explain findings on each application. As has often been expressed, having staff available to answer questions and provide their expertise is extremely valuable to the decision makers. Often as applications are discussed, there are details needed as to the intent of the adopted goals, objectives and policies of the Comprehensive Plan. These issues may be brought up by the public participating in the hearing as well as the elected and appointed officials.
Implementation of our community's vision is an important function to be carried out. Ensuring that occurs in a manner consistent with the Comprehensive Plan is paramount. Therefore, it is imperative that the Planning Commission maintain its legal responsibility by continuing to be actively involved in the rezoning and land development code amendment processes - through written reports, participation in the public hearings, and provision of expert testimony. We look forward to working closely with all four local governments to continue to do so.