Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook Online

Chapter 6: Regional Planning

This Chapter proposes statutory alternatives for the formation and organizational structure of regional planning agencies. The model legislation describes a full range of functions and duties for such agencies. It details the contents of regional comprehensive and functional plans (such as those for housing and transportation) and procedures for their adoption. A special feature of this Chapter is model language for the designation of urban growth areas within a regional comprehensive plan. The Chapter also proposes a variety of implementation tools, including the review of plans of state agencies, local governments, and special districts and of major capital projects of extra-jurisdictional or regional significance. Further, the Chapter includes model legislation for agreements between the regional planning agency and other governmental units to implement regional plans. Finally, a model statute is provided for the designation of the regional planning agency as a substate district organization.

Chapter Outline

Organizational Structure

6-101 Creation of [Regional Planning Agency]; Boundaries of [Regional Planning Agency]; Interstate Regional Planning (Two Alternatives)
6-102 Composition of [Regional Planning Agency]; Finances; State Representation; Representation of Federal Military Installations [and Facilities] (Two Alternatives)
6-103 Voting; Provision for Proportional Voting
6-104 Chair; Other Officers and Committees; Frequency of Meetings; Reports of Committees
6-105 Rule-Making Authority (Two Alternatives)
6-106 Appointment and Responsibilities of Executive Director; Contracts, Purchases, and Leases
6-107 Powers and Duties of a Regional Planning Agency
6-108 Biennial Report

Plan Preparation

6-201 Preparation of Regional Comprehensive Plan (Two Alternatives)
6-201.1 Urban Growth Areas [Optional]
6-202 Preparation of Regional Functional Plans
6-203 Regional Housing Plan
6-204 Regional Transportation Plan

Procedures for Plan Review and Adoption

6-301 Workshops and Public Hearings (Two Alternatives)
6-302 [Resolving Potential Conflicts Among State, Regional, and Local Plans — See Sections
7-402.1 to 7-402.5]
6-303 Adoption of Regional Plans
6-304 Certification of Regional Plan; Availability for Purchase
6-305 Adoption of Plans by Local Governments, Special Districts, and Other Governments

Relationships and Agreements with Other Units of Government

6-401 Effects of Regional Plans on State Agencies, Local Governments, and Special Districts; Review of Plans and Major Capital Projects of Extra-jurisdictional or Regional Significance
6-402 Regional Planning and Coordination Agreements
6-403 Urban Service Agreements

Miscellaneous Provisions

6-501 Withdrawal from [Regional Planning Agency]
6-502 Dissolution of [Regional Planning Agency]
6-503 State Aid to [Regional Planning Agency]

Designation of Regional Planning Agency as Substate District Organization

6-601 Delineation of Substate Districts
6-602 Designation of Substate District Organization
6-603 State Agency Use of Substate District Boundaries
6-604 Effect of Designation on Substate District Organization

Table 6-1 Some Pros and Cons of Urban Growth Areas
Table 6-2 Regional Plans and their Contents

Note 6A — A Note on Weighted Voting Procedures

Note 6B — A Note on Urban Growth Areas and Regional Planning

Note 6C — A Note on Existing Regional Plans

Cross-References for Sections in Chapter 6

Section No. Cross-Reference to Section No.

6-101 6-102 to 6-107, 6-501 to 5-503, 6-601 to 6-604
6-102 6-101, 6-103 to 6-108
6-103 6-101 to 6-102, 6-104 to 6-108
6-104 6-101 to 6-103, 6-105 to 6-108
6-105 6-101 to 6-104, 6-106 to 6-108

Section No. Cross-Reference to Section No.

6-106 6-101 to 6-105, 6-107 to 6-108
6-107 5-204, 5-302 et seq., 6-101 to 6-106, 6-108, 6-201 to 6-203, 6-301 to 6-304, 6-401, 6-604
6-108 6-101 to 6-107

6-201 4-208.8 (Alternative 1B), 5-204, 6-201.1, 6-403, 7-204, 7-204.1, 7-402.1 to 7-402.2
6-201.1 4-204, 6-201, 7-204, 7-204.1
6-202 6-201
6-203 4-207, 4-208, 6-203, 7-207
6-204 4-205, 6-201, 7-205

6-301 6-201 to 6-204
6-302 [See Sections 7-402.1 to 7-402.5]
6-303 6-201 to 6-204, 6-304
6-304 6-201 to 6-204, 6-303

6-401 5-301 et seq, 7-402.1 to 7-402.2, 7-402.4
6-402 6-201, 6-303 to 6-304, 6-403
6-403 4-204, 6-201, 6-201.1

6-501 6-101 et seq.
6-502 6-101 et seq.
6-503 6-101 et seq.

6-601 6-101 et seq., 6-602 to 6-604
6-602 6-101 et seq., 6-601, 6-603 to 6-604
6-603 6-101 et seq., 6-601 to 6-602, 6-604
6-604 6-101 et seq., 6-601 to 6-603

The Evolution of Regional Planning in the United States

What is Regional Planning?

Regional planning is planning for a geographic area that transcends the boundaries of individual governmental units but that shares common social, economic, political, cultural, and natural resources, and transportation characteristics[1]. A regional planning agency prepares plans that serve as a framework for planning by local governments and special districts.

Reasons for Regional Planning
  • Provision of technical assistance to local governments.
  • Maintenance of forum for exploring and resolving intergovernmental issues.
  • Development of regional plans to guide, direct, and/or coordinate local planning.
  • Articulation of local interests and per-spectives to other levels of government.
  • Establishment of two-way conduit between local governments and other agencies.

Throughout the United States, there are regional planning agencies that are either voluntary associations of local governments or are mandated or authorized by state legislation (e.g., the Metropolitan Council in the Twin Cities or the Metropolitan Services District in Portland, Oregon). These exist for purposes of: undertaking plans that address issues that cut across jurisdictional boundaries; providing information, technical assistance, and training; coordinating efforts among member governments, especially efforts that involve federal funding; and providing a two-way conduit between member governments and the state and federal agencies. Regional planning agencies may also serve as a forum to discuss complex and sometimes sensitive issues among member local governments and to try to find solutions to problems that affect more than one jurisdiction. Sometimes these organizations have direct regulatory authority in that they not only prepare plans, but also administer land-use controls through subdivision review and zoning recommendations, review proposals for major developments whose impacts may cross jurisdictional borders, and review and certify local plans. And, in some cases, they directly implement the regional plan, as in the operation of regional transit systems.

States authorize the establishment of these regional planning agencies in different ways. In some parts of the country, the regional agencies take their structure from general enabling legislation (e.g., for regional planning commissions or councils of government). In other places, they are the product of intergovernmental or joint powers agreements, as in California, or interstate compacts, as with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania/Camden, New Jersey, area, or the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in Nevada and California. In some states, regional agencies are created by special state legislation that applies only to one particular agency (e.g., the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission in the Chicago area, or the Cape Cod Commission in Massachusetts). In still others, they may exist as private, voluntary organizations that seek to provide a regional perspective through independently prepared plans and studies. Examples of such agencies are the Regional Plan Association in New York City and Bluegrass Tomorrow in the Lexington, Kentucky area.

The Origins of Regional Planning Agencies

The first regional planning agency with planning powers was the Boston Metropolitan Improvement Commission created by the Massachusetts legislature in 1902. Seven years later, in 1909, the Commercial Club of Chicago, a private organization, financed the preparation of the Plan of Chicago, which was completed by a team headed by Chicago architects Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett. The plan placed the City of Chicago in a regional context and contained regional proposals for parks and transportation.[2]

From 1913 to 1915, when the state legislature repealed the statute creating it, Pennsylvania authorized the establishment of a Suburban Metropolitan Planning Commission. Within a 25-mile radius of Philadelphia, the commission could levy assessments and prepare comprehensive plans for highways, parks and parkways, sewerage and sewage disposal, housing, sanitation and health, civic centers, and other functional areas.[3] The commission had the authority to make recommendations to governmental units on a wide variety of issues, including "the distribution and relative location of all public buildings, public grounds, and open spaces devoted to public use, and the planning, subdivision and laying out for urban uses of private

The major regional planning effort of the 1920s — and for many years afterwards — was the Regional Plan for New York and Environs, financed by the Russell Sage Foundation and prepared by an advisory committee. Work began on the plan in 1921 and was completed in 1929. The eight-volume document covered a 5,528-square-mile area with 500 incorporated bodies. Even by today's standards, the Regional Plan is an impressive work. It contained regionwide proposals for transportation, land use, and public facilities, as well as specific design proposals for New York City. After its publication, the advisory committee issued periodic reports on its implementation.

In 1922, the first metropolitan area planning commission was established in Los Angeles to advise the County Board of Supervisors on planning for the county and on approving subdivisions. In 1923, the Ohio General Assembly enacted the first enabling legislation for regional planning commissions. That legislation, which was drafted by Cincinnati attorney Alfred Bettman, was to provide the model for the regional planning provisions of the Standard City Planning Enabling Act (see below), on whose advisory committee Bettman would become a member. The same year, the Chicago Regional Planning Association, a quasi-public organization, and the Allegheny County Planning Commission (Pittsburgh) were created.

The SCPEA: Model Legislation for Regional Planning

The Standard City Planning Enabling Act (SCPEA), drafted by an advisory committee to the U.S. Department of Commerce and published in 1928, contained model legislation for regional planning. The SCPEA authorized the planning commission of any municipality or the county commissioners of any county to petition the governor to establish a planning region and create a planning commission for that region. The governor was to hold at least one public hearing before making a determination to grant the application, define the region, and appoint the regional planning commission.[5]

Under the SCPEA model, the regional planning commission was composed of nine members, all of whom would be appointed and removed by the governor. The commission had the authority to prepare, adopt, and amend a "master regional plan for the physical development of the region."[6] After adopting the plan, the regional planning commission was required to certify it to the governor, to the planning commission of each municipality in the region, to the council of each municipality that did not have a planning commission, to the county commissioners of each county located wholly or partially in the region, and to other organized taxing districts or political subdivisions wholly or partially included in the region.

Adoption of the regional plan by the municipal planning commission was optional; however, once the regional planning commission adopted it, the plan would have the same force and effect as a plan made and adopted locally. In addition, the municipal planning commission, "[b]efore adopting any amendment of the municipal plan which would constitute a violation of or departure from the regional plan certified to the municipal planning commission," was required to submit the amendment to the regional commission. The regional commission would then "certify to the municipal commission its approval, disapproval or other opinion concerning the proposed amendment."[7]

Once the regional plan was adopted by the regional planning commission, no street, park, or other public way, ground, or open space; no public building or other public structure; and no public utility, whether publicly or privately owned or operated, could be constructed or authorized in unincorporated territory until the project was submitted to and approved by the regional planning commission. However, the planning commission's disapproval could be overruled by the body or officer having authority to determine the location, character, or extent of the improvement, provided that, in the case of a board, commission, or body, not less than two-thirds of its membership voted to do so and provided a statement of reasons for such overruling in the minutes of records of the body or officer.[8]

One analyst of this period observed that:

By the end of the 1920's, metropolitan and county planning was a major topic of concern among professional planners. Many city planning commissions found that central city development plans ignored the surrounding local governments and that regional planning and cooperative political solutions were required. Some saw the need for an agency empowered to take an overall view of serious problems besetting the entire metropolitan area.[9]

Regional Planning During the Depression and War Years

The federal government, through the National Planning Board (later the National Resources Committee) in the Department of the Interior, provided the major push for metropolitan, regional, state, and interstate planning. The federal government supported the creation of the Pacific Northwest Regional Planning Commission, a four-state body covering Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, and the New England Regional Planning Commission, which included Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine.[10] It backed a bistate St. Louis Regional Planning Commission, which it hoped would provide a model for similar efforts elsewhere in the U.S. It also supported the use of interstate compacts, in the words of a report by one federal agency, "as a means of solving regional problems wherever this procedure is found to be feasible."[11]

By the end of the 1930s, according to a report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, federal support had greatly expanded metropolitan and regional planning:

In 1934, there were only 85 metropolitan and county planning bodies and 23 regional planning agencies in existence. By January 1937, there were 506 metropolitan multicounty and county planning agencies, of which at least 316 were official public bodies. Two years later, metropolitan planning agencies or regional planning boards, commissions, or associations were operating in at least 30 major cities. In addition to these metropolitan developments, by the close of the decade areawide planning had also been extended to a number of small urban areas and several nonmetropolitan regions.[12]

Of note during World War II was the formation of privately financed regional planning councils in San Francisco, St. Louis, Boston, Cincinnati, and Kansas City. In Pittsburgh, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development was established in 1945. Its membership drew from leaders in business, labor, and government, and it emerged as a prime mover in the transformation of Pittsburgh in the postwar era.[13]

Regional Planning in the Postwar Period

In the 1950s, federal aid for comprehensive planning became available with the enactment of Section 701 of the Housing Act of 1954. This statute provided monies for local planning and planning for metropolitan areas by official regional or metropolitan planning agencies.

According to a study by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, at least 13 states passed regional planning enabling acts in the three years following the enactment of the 1954 Housing Act. This set the stage for a tremendous increase in the number of multijurisdictional planning organizations. During this period, according to the ACIR, the legislatures of at least nine of these states enacted legislation requiring or permitting the establishment of planning agencies for entire urbanized areas. The statutes usually authorized the agencies to apply for and receive federal grants. Some states adopted specific statutes that created planning commissions for certain metropolitan areas. By the beginning of the 1960s, some two-thirds of the nation's metropolitan areas were engaged in some type of areawide planning.[14]

Complimenting the "701" program was the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962. This statute required a "cooperative, comprehensive, and continuous" planning process as a prerequisite for federal financial assistance for interstate highway development in metropolitan areas. The act required regional transportation plans in urban areas with populations more than 50,000 as a condition to construction funds. In contrast to the "701" grants, which split cost evenly with local governments, the Highway Act provided matching grants of 70 percent of the cost of preparing the necessary studies.

In some parts of the U.S., metropolitan transportation planning was assigned to a special commission or entity. This was the case, and still is, in Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago. In others, the transportation planning function was assumed by a regional planning commission or metropolitan councils of government (COG), which were voluntary alliances of local governments formed to undertake planning or any type of joint governmental activity that its members could agree upon.

One of the earliest studies of COGs was conducted in 1962 by the American Society of Planning Officials (ASPO), one of APA's predecessor organizations. The study examined eight councils. It observed that the agencies were operating without an overall metropolitan government that would carry out any plans they might propose. As a consequence, the agencies

must rely on persuasion to convince numerous local governments that joint area-wide action is necessary — a method not notable for its past successes . . . .

Probably the most important advantage of the voluntary governmental council is its acceptability to local political leaders. No change in government structure is necessary and there is no transfer of power from local units to a larger agency. The council is easily set up and established by the local governments themselves. Membership is voluntary and the organization is flexible and adaptable to many situations.[15]

During the 1960s and 1970s, the nation was almost completely covered by multistate river basin and economic development commissions and by metropolitan and nonmetropolitan regional councils. The expansion of COGs, prompted by the availability of federal funding, was dramatic. In 1961, for example, there were only 36 COGs, including 25 among the 212 metropolitan areas. By 1966, this number included 119 councils, of which 71 were metropolitan. By 1971, there were 247 metropolitan areas, and all of them had official regional planning, mostly under elected COGs. By 1978, there were 649 councils in the U.S. Of these, 292 were in metropolitan areas.[16]

Four federal laws were responsible for this expansion, and they were all enacted in a watershed year of 1965. The Housing and Community Development Act of 1965 made regional councils eligible for planning funds. The Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 provided funding for multicounty economic development districts and authorized the establishment of federal multistate economic development commissions. The Appalachian Regional Development Act established the multistate Appalachian Regional Commission, which accomplished its work through multicounty development districts. Finally, the Water Resources Planning Act of 1965 authorized the establishment of federal multistate river basin commissions.[17] Under Circular A-95, promulgated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, regional agencies received authority to review applications for federal assistance for compliance with regional and local plans. In addition, regional agencies began to prepare regional water-quality management plans under Section 208 of the federal Clean Water Act of 1972.

Bruce McDowell of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations observed:

This explosion of "areawide" regional councils and the multistate river basin and economic development regions occurred because of very intentional and systematic federal action which drew in the states as well as local governments. In the cases of the areawide councils, the federal actions included establishing 39 grant programs designed to require and fund regional planning, and direct appeal to the governors of all 50 states to establish statewide systems of substate districts to systematize the administration of the federal programs supporting regional councils. And many of the states did so.[18]

New Roles for Regional Agencies

Between 1960 and 1980, there were a number of studies that proposed new roles and authority for regional planning entities. These studies also called for changes in state statutes. Their chief recommendations are summarized below.

1. ASPO Connecticut Report. In 1966, ASPO, assisted by the Chicago law firm of Ross, Hardies, O'Keefe, Babcock, McDugald& Parsons, produced a report entitled New Directions in Connecticut Planning Legislation. The report, prepared for the Connecticut Development Commission, recommended major changes in the Connecticut planning statutes. Its major recommendation regarding regional planning agencies was an extension of their jurisdiction to review matters that may have regional significance, such as decisions involving property within specified distances from state highways, and development affecting the region, such as water, sewerage, and utility projects. The regional agency would still not be given veto power over local decisions. If a local or state agency took action contrary to a regional planning agency's recommendation pursuant to a referral, that agency would be required to state in writing the reasons that had led it to a different conclusion. But if the regional agency chose not to comment on a proposal, such an action would be neutral, rather than constitute a project endorsement.

The ASPO report also recommended amending the state statutes to define a regional plan as distinct from a local plan. "The statute should direct the regional plan to cover regional facilities," noted its authors, "and, especially, to give attention to regional resource and conservation problems."[19]

2. National Commission on Urban Problems (Douglas Commission). In 1968, the National Commission on Urban Problems, also known as the Douglas Commission, after its Chair, Senator Paul Douglas, issued its report, Building the American City. The Commission's charge, among other things, was to examine "state and local zoning and land use laws, codes, and regulations to find ways by which States and localities may improve and utilize them in order to obtain further growth and development."[20] To date, the study, with its wide-ranging scope, is one of the most comprehensive and thorough in terms of examining authority of governments to plan and regulate development.

Two Commission proposals to broaden choice in the location of housing called for regional approaches

(1) Enactment of state legislation requiring multi-county or regional planning agencies to prepare and maintain housing plans. These plans would ensure that sites are available for development of new housing of all kinds and at all price levels. In the absence of a regional planning body — given the broader-than-local nature of the plan and the importance of political approval of such plans — the state government should assume responsibility for the necessary political endorsement of the plan.

(2) Amendment of state planning and zoning acts to include, as one of the purposes of the zoning power, the provision of adequate sites for housing persons of all income levels. The amendments would also require that governments exercising the zoning power prepare plans showing how the community proposes to carry out such objectives in accordance with county or regional housing plans. This would ensure that, within the region as a whole, adequate provision is made for sites for all income levels.[21]

3. ACIR Report on Substate Districting. In 1973, the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations published Regional Decision Making: New Strategies for Substate Districts. This report assessed the effectiveness of regional councils of local elected officials and substate planning and development districts. The report contained a number of recommendations for the federal, state, and local levels of government. The recommendations for state governments are especially relevant to the Growing Smart legislation. The ACIR recommended that states establish a formal procedure for the delineation and revision of the boundaries of substate districts. It called for a process involving the governor and units of general local government in a substate region, which would result in the governor's designation of a single "umbrella multi-jurisdictional organization" or UMJO in each region, with such designation conferring the legal status of an agency of local governments.[22]

The UMJO's membership should be at least 60 percent local elected officials. The ACIR proposed that such organizations have a voting formula that involved the application of the one-government, one-vote principle in most voting matters, but permitted certain larger local jurisdictions to overrule this procedure on certain issues — such as actions that would affect the finances and operations of constituent local governments — and employ a proportionate, population-weighted rule. The UMJO would be responsible for the adoption and publication of regional policies or plans and of a program for their implementation.[23]

The ACIR called for the UMJO to review and approve, in the context of adopted regional plans and policies, all proposed major capital facility projects of state departments and agencies scheduled for location in the UMJO's region. Similarly, the UMJO would have the authority to review and comment on major capital projects proposed by local governmental units. The ACIR proposed conferring on the UMJO "a policy controlling role" over multijurisdictional special districts operating within the UMJO's region. "The emphasis on a single functional purpose," wrote the ACIR, "often results in decisions which have side effects on other areawide policies, programs, and jurisdictions. For this reason, a generalist-oriented and dominated multipurpose regional agency must have authority not only to plan, but also to set basic policy for special districts that transcend city and county boundaries"[24] [emphasis supplied]. Means for securing policy control over the special district, according to the ACIR, included: appointment of the special district's policy board by the regional council; review and approval of the district's budgets and basic policies; assignment to the council of the power to halt temporarily or permanently any proposed district project; and empowering the council to serve as the special district's fiscal agent for bonding.[25]

The UMJO could provide member governments with technical assistance and promote interlocal problem solving and contracting. Financing of the regional agency's operations was to come from member governments under a mechanism authorized in enabling legislation and from state funds.[26]

The ACIR recommendations were later translated into model legislation. A portion of this legislation has been adapted for Sections 6-601 to 6-604, below, which deal with designation of substate districts and substate district agencies.[27]

4. ALI Model Land Development Code. The American Law Institute's (ALI) A Model Land Development Code (1976) specifically rejected the establishment or designation of regional planning agencies as having a role in a statewide land development planning and regulation system. Instead, the Code proposed the creation of regional planning divisions of a state land planning agency with regional advisory committees to advise the director of the state agency (see commentary to Section 6-101 below).

The drafters of the ALI Code were highly skeptical of the potential for regional planning under voluntary associations of elected officials and questioned whether they could provide an independent perspective. "The more that metropolitan agencies have been asked to review functions that bring them into potential conflict with local governments, the more the structural weaknesses of such organizations become apparent," they wrote.[28] The drafters quoted one critic of the system's effectiveness:

[The COG] receives its legitimacy from its member governments — but those governments do not seem to want the COG to emerge as a force different and distinct from the sum of its governmental parts. Member governments do not generally see the COG as an independent source of regional influence, but rather as a service giver, a coordinator, a communications forum, and an insurance device for the continued flow of federal funds to local governments.[29]

Because of these and other political factors, COGs, wrote the Code's drafters, "engage in passive, consensus planning, giving each local government whatever it wants, regardless of the effect on the region," resulting in the "absence of regional planning that really faces tough issues."[30]

As a consequence of this skepticism, the Code required that the basic land planning power "remain at the state level to be delegated by the State Land Planning Agency to the regional divisions or withdrawn therefrom as the state agency sees fit."[31] The ALI Code saw this as "essential to enable the coordination of regional land planning with other state activities and to ensure that regional land planning carries the weight and authority of the state government."[32] The Code noted that this would eliminate a "key defect" in most metropolitan planning agencies, which was "the absence of close ties to a governing body and 'a strong chief executive who is able to override the contenders and force resolution of disagreements.'"[33]

Regional Planning in the 1980s and Beyond

In the 1980s, the federal government withdrew almost entirely from its support of regional planning. "Of the 39 programs designed and enacted during the preceding two decades to promote regional organization," wrote Bruce McDowell, "only one — metropolitan transportation planning — remained relatively unscathed by this sudden reversal of federal policy."[34] In the multistate programs, which had created most river basin and economic development regions, the federal government withdrew funding and the organizations died. Only multistate agencies created by federal law or interstate compact survived. The federal economic development programs, through the Economic Development Administration, and the Appalachian programs managed to continue, but in greatly abbreviated form.

A number of states — Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and Virginia, among them — provided state support for regional planning agencies that replaced the lost federal funds. Florida, in 1972 with the enactment of the Environmental Land and Water Management Act, and Georgia, in 1989 with the Georgia Planning Act, strengthened the authority and responsibility for the agencies in statewide growth management systems. Florida's regional planning councils were required to prepare regional policy plans, review developments of regional impact, and establish mediation and arbitration processes to resolve regional disputes. Under the new Georgia act, the regional planning agencies were recast as "regional development centers" and were given powers similar to the regional councils in Florida. Massachusetts enacted one of the most progressive special purpose regional planning statutes in the nation when it passed, in 1989, special legislation establishing the Cape Cod Commission with broad powers to plan and regulate development in an area of statewide significance.

Regional planning agencies responded to the federal cutback, in some cases, by becoming more entrepreneurial. They undertook joint purchasing programs, forecasting, data collection and dissemination, arranged training, operated programs such as regional ambulance services, or provided consultant planning services to member governments.[35]

Where are regional planning agencies headed? The ACIR's Bruce McDowell suggests that one role of such agencies is the development of "negotiated policies and programs." Regional planning agencies, he observes, are "negotiating bodies" and provide "forums for mediating disputes, finding solutions to tough problems, and working out agreements, and developing cooperative action."[36] A British planning professor, Urlan A. Wannop, predicts that giving regional planning agencies "real duties in planning and implementation" in a statewide growth management system of the type enacted in Florida and elsewhere will make them effective, offering a promise of reinvigorating them.[37] Allan Wallis, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Colorado at Denver, suggests that, in the current fluid environment, solutions to regional problems will evolve from an identification of "strategic interests over which coalitions already have formed." Thus, there will be no single solution or approach that will work in every region, even if the problems are, in Wallis' words, "fairly generic and common to most other large metropolitan areas." Developing out of the perception of the regional problems and the legitimacy of the coalitions that defined them, the particularized governance structures that result to address those problems "will be highly idiosyncratic, reflecting, as they should, such unique circumstances as local political culture."[38]

William R. Dodge, former executive director of the National Association of Regional Councils and a consultant on regional excellence, observes:

Regional agencies are undertaking new activities for private and civic sectors. They often provide technical support for developing regional economic development plans and have assisted in creating regional civic leagues and college/university regional studies centers. Now, regional planning agencies are bringing public, private and civic sectors together to address common regional challenges, in regional visioning processes and regional leadership forums. Regional planning agencies now serve federal, state and local governments, as well as the private and civic sectors, and often weave together their interests and resources in collaborative strategies to address regional challenges. Regions are experimenting with new models for governing themselves — for integrating transportation, land use, air and water quality, and other planning; negotiating the regional compacts for shaping equitable growth; and developing new public/private/civic partnerships for governing the regional commons — all of which will have an impact on regional planning agencies.[39]

Organizational Structure

Commentary: Regional Planning Agencies

Regional councils or some type of regional planning organization representing local governments operate in all states except Hawaii, Alaska, and Rhode Island, according to the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC). Regional planning in the U.S. is made institutionally complex by the federal requirement that a metropolitan planning organization (MPO) oversee transportation planning. The MPO may be separate from the established regional planning agencies — the situation in several metropolitan areas including Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco — or governed by a special policy committee inside the agency. Where the MPO is separate from the regional agency that addresses other planning, the two entities typically enter into an agreement to coordinate transportation planning with the planning of land use, air and water quality, and related issues. (Current federal requirements for regional transportation planning are discussed in the commentary to Section 6-204 below.)

Twenty-five states have "wall-to-wall" regional councils. Regional councils in at least 10 other states serve from 75 to 90 percent of all local governments. For the remainder, except for four, reports NARC, councils cover from 60 to 74 percent of all local governments. New Jersey does not have state-designated regional councils. Three councils, two of them MPOs and one a regional planning agency headquartered in Princeton, serve areas of the state. Alaska has divided the state into regions for economic development purposes, but no formal regional agencies exist. In Montana, there are no state-designated regional planning councils, but there are a number of regional planning commissions.[40]

There are at least five possible structures for regional planning agencies:

1. Regional Planning Commission. Regional planning commissions may be single county, multicounty, or composed of multiple jurisdictions, depending on the geographic extent and population of the region. Typically, their governing board is composed of citizens who are appointed by local governments, although elected officials may also serve. They are primarily established to prepare plans, provide technical assistance to member governments, and, in some cases, administer development regulations (such as reviewing and approving subdivision plats). Interstate regional planning commissions cover portions of multistate areas, most typically metropolitan areas. In Ohio, such regional planning commissions are the result of special enabling legislation.[41] In Philadelphia, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, whose jurisdiction covers portions of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, was created by a special interstate compact approved by Congress.[42]

2. Council of Governments. While they may undertake planning, councils of governments (COGs) are somewhat different than regional planning commissions in that they can also carry out virtually any service delivery activity that a member government can undertake, provided the membership agrees that the COG should do so. For example, a council could operate a regional wastewater treatment plant or a regional ambulance service if the members permit. The governing structure of a COG typically involves appointed representatives from member governments but may include others, such as representatives of economic development organizations in the region. A variation includes a COG whose representatives are from local governments and from the state.

In Florida, for example, regional planning councils include representatives of member counties and other local general purpose governments in the geographic area covered by the regional planning council as well as representatives appointed by the governor from the geographic area covered by the council. The governor also appoints, as ex officio nonvoting members, representatives of several state departments.[43] The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments includes one member of the Maryland General Assembly and one member of the Virginia General Assembly, representing portions of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Both are selected every two years by separate caucuses of the members of the council from those legislative bodies.[44]

In some states, like Michigan, Ohio, and North Carolina, COGs are creatures of special enabling legislation.[45] In others, like California, they are established through a joint powers agreement.

3. Regional Advisory Committee. The American Law Institute's Model Land Development Code rejected the creation of independent regional planning agencies. Instead, it proposed the optional establishment of regional planning divisions for portions of the state. The divisions could be delegated all or a portion of the authority of the state planning agency and would exercise that authority subject to the planning agency's oversight. The governor could also create regional advisory committees and could delegate all or a portion of the powers of the regional planning division to the committees. The committees were also charged with advising the state planning director.[46] The ALI model of regional advisory committees to a state planning agency has not been adopted anywhere in the country.

4. Regional Allocation Agency. Economist Anthony Downs, in his 1994 book, New Visions for Metropolitan America, proposed the creation of regional allocation agencies.[47] The regional allocation agency would be responsible for allocating federal funds within various program areas either to local governments or to households, service delivery agencies, or other recipients. At the outset, Downs wrote, the agency would be responsible for allocating federal funding for transportation, environmental control, housing, urban planning, education, welfare, and health care. Within each categorical program, the regional agency would have to develop an allocation plan that addresses the needs and capacities of all potential recipients on an areawide basis and show how it was meeting those needs for persons living in all parts of the metropolitan area.

Examples of such agencies — although they might not reflect all of Downs' criteria — would include the Metropolitan Service District or "Metro" in Portland, Oregon, and the Metropolitan Council in the Twin Cities in Minnesota.[48]

According to Downs, governing members of the agency could be elected by the residents of the entire metropolitan area (as in Portland), appointed by the governor (as in the Twin Cities), or appointed by the local governments in the region. Once chosen, the members of this agency may delegate some of their powers to existing organization, appoint subagencies to handle funds within each program category, or use any other administrative methods they selected.

With respect to growth management activities, Downs proposed that a single government agency
— either at the state level or regional (including county) level — be empowered to review all local land- use plans. The agency would check the plans' consistency with state planning goals — adopted by the state legislature and applicable to all communities in the state — and their consistency with each other, and suggest revisions where inconsistencies of either type are found. Downs contended that the agency must have the power to withhold its approval of local plans and that withholding it should carry significant penalties in the form of ineligibility for various types of state financial assistance. "In some cases," he wrote, "the agency should have the power to override local government decisions, such as zoning decisions that prevent the creation of low-cost housing. Most often, however, the agency would simply request the local government to revise its plans and repeat the process until final approval is obtained."[49] In order to ensure consistency of state functional plans with local government plans and with each other, the same agency that performed the local plan review would also coordinate activities of state transportation departments, utility regulation departments, environmental protection departments, and other agencies.

5. Special Purpose Regional Agencies. Several states have special purpose regional agencies with the authority to plan and control development in environmentally sensitive areas or areas having statewide resource significance. Examples of such long-standing organizations include the Pinelands Commission in New Jersey, the Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard Commissions in Massachusetts, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission in California, the Adirondack Park Agency in New York, and the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in California and Nevada, which is the result of a compact.[50]

The last two alternatives, the regional allocation agency and the special purpose regional agency, require specialized drafting that takes into account regional and local political traditions and the issues that brought about the need for the agency. In the case of the regional allocation agency, the legislation must go beyond regional planning and into the area of restructuring metropolitan governance, which is emerging as one of the major governance challenges of the new century.

The models that follow address the first two types of regional planning agencies: regional planning commissions and councils of governments, as they are the most common in the country. They are adapted from legislation from Florida, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, and Michigan.[51] The term, "regional planning agency," is used throughout in brackets, but drafters may wish to substitute some other term such as "regional planning commission," "regional council of governments," or "regional council."

Under the model legislation, a regional planning agency can have the planning responsibilities of a regional planning commission and the service provision responsibilities of a council of governments. Various organizational options are also provided including: (a) a voluntary regional agency versus a regional agency mandated by state statute for each substate district; and (b) a structure to be determined by agreement of member governments versus a mandated structure composed of local elected officials, appointees of the governor (often representing interest groups), and state agency representatives serving in an ex officio, nonvoting capacity.

A related issue is whether membership by local governments will be mandated; the model legislation provides alternative language for this, based on the Florida and Georgia legislation. In Florida, membership by counties in regional councils is mandated by statute, but municipal government membership is not required.[52] By contrast, in Georgia all local governments must be members of a regional development center (RDC), the state's term for a regional planning agency. Georgia, through its department of community affairs, also provides funding support for the RDC.[53] This suggests that where state law mandates local participation in the regional agency (and hence local costs), the state must be prepared to assume a portion of the burden of financing its operation. The model legislation below also contains provisions for partial state funding of regional planning agencies.

There is no ideal form for a regional planning agency. The approach taken here, therefore, resists endorsing one, leaving that option up to local officials in the region and the state legislature.[54] For that reason, the model legislation does not propose metropolitan or regional "superagencies" or new forms of regional governance, although this may always be an alternative.[55] Economist Anthony Downs has commented that regional growth management policies do not have to be administered "through a single agency acting as a regional policy czar." Instead, he wrote, it might be desirable to have different growth management policies run by different local and regional agencies that are organized in ways best suited to their individual tasks, "as long they are linked through formal and informal coordination."[56]

As a practical matter, the formal organizational structure of a regional planning agency is less important than the powers and duties that it has, the clarity with which those powers and duties are described, how effectively those powers and duties are actually carried out, and its actual — as opposed to theoretical — relationships with implementing local governments and special districts and with public, private, and civic organizations. Conceivably, a regional planning commission whose representatives are lay citizens appointed by their local governments and who are their region's leaders could have just as much informal independence, influence, and authority as the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council, whose board members are appointed by the governor, or the Portland, Oregon, Metropolitan Service District, whose board members are elected. In adapting these models to local conditions, drafters must look at the desired outcomes of planning and consider modifying the authority of existing agencies before deciding to create new ones.

6-101 Creation of Regional Planning Agency; Boundaries of Regional Planning Agency; Interstate Regional Planning (Two Alternatives)

Alternative 1 — Voluntary Creation of Regional Planning Agency

(1) A [regional planning agency] may be created by agreement after adoption of a resolution by 2 or more legislative bodies of any local governments that want to create a [regional planning agency]. The agreement shall specify the area in which the powers and duties of such a [regional planning agency] shall be exercised and shall provide for procedures for the amendment of the area and for the addition of other local governments [and may provide for the addition of other governmental units].


A [regional planning agency] may be established in the following manner:

(1) Upon petition in the form of a resolution by the legislative body of a local government and the holding of a public hearing on such petition, the governor, or such state agency or official that the governor designates, may create a [regional planning agency]. If the petition is joined in by the governing bodies of all the local governments in the proposed region, including the [legislative body of the county], part or all of which is located in the proposed region, the governor may dispense with the public hearing. The governor may give notice by mail at least [30] days in advance to the clerk of each local government in the proposed region.

(2) If the governor finds that there is a need for a [regional planning agency] and if the governing bodies of local governments located within the proposed region, which include more than 50 percent of the population [and equalized assessed valuation of the region as determined by the last previous equalization of assessments], consent to the formation of such [regional planning agency], the governor may create the [agency] by order and designate the area and boundaries of the [agency]'s jurisdiction, taking into account patterns of urban and rural development, distribution of population, patterns of transportation (including regional commuting), interrelatedness of social and economic problems, historic, scenic, and natural resources, and geographic or topographic features.


(2) The legislative body of a county and the legislative body of a municipality located within such county may cooperate with other such counties and municipalities of this state and of any adjoining state to create by agreement an interstate [regional planning agency], whenever such local governments comprise a region that would benefit from cooperative regional planning.

(3) An interstate [regional planning agency] may also be created by compact through appropriate action of the legislative bodies of counties and municipalities in this state, by resolution, ordinance, or otherwise pursuant to law, in agreement with the appropriate authorities of the political subdivisions of other states included in the region.

(4) Any such compact shall specify:

(a) its purposes and duration;

(b) the extent of the region;

(c) the precise organization and composition of the [regional planning agency];

(d) the manner of financing the operations of the [agency] and maintaining a budget for the purposes thereof;

(e) provisions for the partial or complete termination of the compact; and

(f) any other matters deemed necessary and proper.

(5) No such compact shall be in force and effect until it has been reviewed and approved by the attorneys general of the states included in the region to determine whether the compact is in proper form and compatible with all state and federal laws[57] and until it has been approved by the legislatures and governors of such states.

Alternative 2 — Mandated Creation of Regional Planning Agency[58]

(1) Where the governor has delineated substate districts pursuant to Sections [6-601 to 6-602], there shall be created in each district a [regional planning agency] within [1] year from the effective date of this Act.

(2) Only one [agency] shall exercise the powers and duties granted herein within the geographic boundaries of any one substate district.

Commentary: Composition of Regional Planning Agency

Membership in regional planning agencies is either permissive or mandated, based on whether the agency itself is a voluntary association of governments or mandated by state government. In either case, the membership needs to include representatives of local and state governments and private and civic sectors. Local elected officials represent at least a majority of the voting members on the governing board. Voting representation is usually extended to private and civic representatives, either selected by elected local officials or community groups. State governments have ex-officio members, usually state legislators or representatives of state government agencies. Federal government agencies often have ex-officio members. The number of voting members can vary from less than a dozen to over a hundred, but should be large enough to represent the full range of regional interests. Regional planning agencies often have the flexibility to add or change members to accommodate new membership needs, as long as the local elected officials retain a majority vote on the governing body

6-102 Composition of [Regional Planning Agency]; Finances; State Representation; Representation of Federal Military Installations [and Facilities] (Two Alternatives)

Alternative 1 — Permissive Composition and Membership of Regional Planning Agency

(1) The number and qualifications of the voting representatives of member local governments of any [regional planning agency], their terms, [compensation, if any,] and method of appointment and removal shall be such as determined and agreed upon by the cooperating legislative bodies. [Representatives shall serve [with or without] compensation, and may be reimbursed for expenses incurred in the performance of their duties on the [agency] pursuant to rules adopted by the [agency].]

(2) Any representative of a member local government on a [regional planning agency] may hold any other appointive or elective public office. After creation of a [regional planning agency], any local government in the region, upon the resolution of its legislative body, may apply for admission to the agency. Upon an affirmative vote of a majority of the [regional planning agency]'s membership, the local government shall become a member thereof. [After creation of a [regional planning agency], school districts, special districts, other units of government in the region, and Indian tribes[59] may also participate in the [regional planning agency], upon such terms, including contributions to the [agency]'s expenses, as may be agreed upon by the cooperating legislative bodies.

(3) The proportion of the expenses of the [regional planning agency] to be borne respectively by the local governments cooperating in the establishment and maintenance of the [agency] shall be as determined and agreed upon by the cooperating legislative bodies, which are hereby authorized to appropriate their respective shares of such expenses. [The sums so appropriated shall be deposited into the treasury of the county in which the greater portion of the population of the region is located, and shall be paid out on the certificate of the [regional planning agency] and the warrant of the [county auditor or other county fiscal officer] for the purposes authorized by this Act.]

[(4) The state [may or shall] be represented as an ex officio member of each [regional planning agency]. In such instances, the governor shall appoint an employee from the [state planning agency], who shall represent the state in the deliberations of the [agency]. The state [shall or shall not] be a voting member of the [regional planning agency] or any committee of the [agency].]

[(5) Whenever there is located, either wholly or partially, within the region, a federal military installation [or other federal facility] having a resident population of at least [500] persons according to the most recent available federal decennial census, the [regional planning agency] may, by a majority vote of its members, offer the commanding officer of the installation [or chief executive officer of the federal facility] the privilege of membership for the installation [or facility], with the commanding officer, [chief executive officer,] or the officer's designee serving as the representative to the [agency]. Upon the acceptance by the commanding officer [or chief executive officer] of this offer, the federal military installation [or federal facility] shall be deemed to be an ex officio member of the [agency], and shall have the same rights and obligations as other local governments.]

— The language in paragraph (5) would permit membership on the regional planning agency by a federal military base or other federal facility, such as a national park or national forest.

Alternative 2 — Mandated Composition and Membership of Regional Planning Agency by Local Elected Officials, Appointees of the Governor, and State Agency Representative [60]

(1) All local governments located in a region shall be members of a [regional planning agency] and shall pay a pro rata share of the costs of membership in the [agency]. Each local government shall appoint 1 voting representative, who is an elected official of that local government, to serve on the [agency]. At least [51 percent or two-thirds] of the representatives serving on the [agency] shall be local elected officials.

(2) The governor shall appoint the remaining portion of the voting members on the [regional planning agency], subject to confirmation by the senate. No two appointees of the governor shall have their places of residence in the same county until each county within the region is represented by the governor's appointee to the [agency]. Nothing contained in this Section shall deny the option of appointing either locally elected officials or lay citizens, provided that at least [51 percent or two-thirds] of the [regional planning agency] is composed of local elected officials.

(3) In addition to voting members appointed pursuant to paragraph (2) above, the governor shall appoint the following ex officio nonvoting members to each [regional planning agency]:

[(a) a representative of the state planning agency;]

[(b) a representative of the state department of transportation;]

[(c) a representative of the state department of environmental protection; and]

[(d) a representative of [other appropriate state agencies, such as the state emergency management agency or the state housing agency].]

Commentary: Voting

An ongoing issue for some regional planning agencies is the matter of voting. Most regional agencies are structured and expected to function like a senate, with each member community having an equal vote. As noted earlier in this Chapter, the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations proposed in the 1970s that regional agencies have the option of allowing proportionate-population weighted voting in certain issues, such as actions that would affect the finances and operations of constituent local governments. As regional agencies move into areas that are less advisory and more legislative, such as ranking transportation projects for a metropolitan area or approving policies that have distributional consequences, a weighted voting mechanism, either mandatory or optional, may be desirable. Indeed, a number of regional agencies (e.g., the San Diego Association of Governments, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, the Puget Sound Regional Council, the Denver Regional Council of Governments, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and the Miami Valley (Ohio) Regional Planning Commission) have various forms of weighted voting based on a jurisdiction's proportion to the total regional population.[61] A 1994 ACIR analysis of 86 metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) that undertake regional transportation planning found population-weighted voting in 18 MPOs in 10 states and the District of Columbia.[62] MPOs are often part of regional planning commissions or councils of governments, thereby following the voting practices of those organizations.

The drafting of a weighted or proportional voting procedure will be unique to the individual state or region. Consequently, the model legislation below does not endorse a specific approach and only directs the regional agency in its bylaws to provide for an alternate voting system. Examples of such bylaws are discussed in a Note at the end of this Chapter.

6-103 Voting; Provision for Proportional Voting

(1) Each [representative of a governmental unit or agency or representative of a member local government] shall be entitled to 1 vote in the governing body of the [regional planning agency], except as provided in paragraph (2) below.

(2) The [agreement establishing or bylaws of] the [regional planning agency] shall provide for an alternate weighted voting procedure based on population that [any representative of a governmental unit or agency or any representative of a member local government or 2 or more representatives of member local governments] may call into effect.

6-104 Chair; Other Officers and Committees; Frequency of Meetings; Reports of Committees

(1) Each [regional planning agency] shall elect its own chair, may elect an executive committee, and may create and fill such offices as it determines to be necessary.

(2) The [agency] may create and appoint advisory committees whose membership may consist of individuals whose experience, training, or interest in a program, activity, or plan may qualify them to lend valuable assistance to the [agency]. Members of such advisory committees shall receive no compensation for their services but may be reimbursed for actual expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.

(3) The [agency] may authorize the executive committee to act on its behalf in all matters, including the approval of contracts, pursuant to rules adopted by it, except that the executive committee shall not adopt rules, appoint, evaluate, or terminate an executive director, adopt an annual budget and work program, approve the initiation of a lawsuit, adopt regional plans, create advisory committees or appoint members to them, or elect members of the executive committee.

(4) The [agency] shall meet at least [4] times each year.

(5) All actions of committees shall be reported in writing to the [agency] members no later than the next [agency] meeting or within [30] days from the date of the action, whichever is earlier. The [agency] may provide a procedure to ratify committee actions by a vote of the representatives.

Commentary: Rule-Making Authority

The legislation should give the regional planning agency the authority to adopt rules. Such rules would ordinarily deal with routine matters, such as a quorum, call of meetings, order of business, and parliamentary procedure. However, as a regional planning agency's responsibilities grow and its tasks become more complex, a more formal rule-making authority may become necessary. For example, if the regional agency regulates developments of regional impact, then it would need to adopt substantive rules for that purpose, much like state environmental protection agencies. The model legislation provides two alternatives to address each of these situations.

6-105 Rule-Making Authority (Two Alternatives)

Alternative 1 — Simple Rule-Making Authority

(1) The [regional planning agency] shall adopt rules for the transaction of business.


(1) The [regional planning agency] shall have the authority to adopt rules concerning any matter within its jurisdiction, provided, however, that no rule shall be adopted until the [agency] has held a public hearing on the proposed rule.

(2) No rule shall become effective until it has been adopted by the affirmative vote of not less than the majority of the entire membership of the [regional planning agency] who are entitled to vote.

(3) All rules adopted by the [regional planning agency] shall be public records.

(4) The [regional planning agency] shall keep a record of its resolutions, minutes of meetings, transactions, findings, and determinations, which record shall be public record.

Alternative 2 — Detailed Rule-Making Authority

(1) The [regional planning agency] shall have the authority to prepare and adopt rules concerning any matter within its jurisdiction.

(2) No rule shall be adopted until the [regional planning agency] holds a public hearing on the proposed rule, publishes a notice of proposed rule making in a newspaper of general circulation in the region at least [30] days in advance of the public hearing, and provides notice of proposed rule making to the chief executive officer of each local government, special district, and other organized taxing districts or political subdivisions located wholly or partly in the region.

(3) The notice of proposed rule making shall:

(a) contain a statement as to the substance of the proposed rule;

(b) specify the officer(s) or employee(s) of the [regional planning agency] from whom additional information may be obtained;

(c) specify a time and place where the proposed rule may be inspected before the hearing; and

(d) specify the date, time, and place of the public hearing, and the method for presentation of views and comments.

(4) The [regional planning agency] shall afford any interested person the opportunity to submit written and oral comments in the record of the hearing on the proposed rule.

(5) [Use same language as Alternative 1, Paragraph (2).]

(6) [Use same language as Alternative 1, Paragraph (3).]

(7) [Use same language as Alternative 1, Paragraph (4).]

6-106 Appointment and Responsibilities of Executive Director; Contracts, Purchases, and Leases

(1) The [regional planning agency] shall appoint an executive director, who shall select, hire, evaluate, discipline, and terminate employees pursuant to rules adopted by the [agency], be responsible for the day-to-day work of the [agency], and manage and supervise employees and experts and consultants hired by contract, except for attorneys retained to provide independent legal counsel and for certified public accountants retained to conduct independent audits. The executive director shall serve at the pleasure of the [agency].

(2) The [agency] may hire by contract experts and consultants for part-time or full-time service as may be necessary to fulfill its responsibilities.

(3) The [agency] may purchase, lease, or otherwise provide for supplies, materials, equipment, and facilities as it deems necessary and appropriate in the manner provided in rules adopted by the [agency].

Commentary: Powers and Duties of a Regional Planning Agency

More than the organizational form, the powers and duties assigned to a regional planning agency will determine its ultimate role. Drafters would be best advised to concentrate their initial energies on defining these powers and duties before moving on to structure.

There are four categories of powers and duties: (1) planning, information-gathering, and forecasting; (2) administration, education, and training; (3) implementation; and (4) service provision. The exact mix of powers and duties of a regional planning agency will depend on the degree to which the state legislature and the local governments want an activist agency with strong authority to coordinate and implement its plans as well as provide direct service.

6-107 Powers and Duties of a [Regional Planning Agency]

A [regional planning agency] shall have the following powers and duties necessary to carry out the purposes and provisions of this Act, including, but not limited to:

(1) Planning. The [regional planning agency] shall:

(a) prepare and adopt plans for the region pursuant to Sections [6-201 to 6-203 and 6-301 to 6-304];

(b) coordinate its planning activities with the planning activities of state agencies, local governments, special districts, and private and civic organizations in the region;

(c) provide, upon request, technical assistance to local governments, special districts, and other governmental units in the region, including assistance in developing local comprehensive and other plans and implementing measures as well as in planning for natural disasters and post-disaster revedevelopment;

(d) cooperate with and assist units of the federal government in the execution of their planning function to coordinate their planning activities with the plans for the region as described in Sections [6-201 to 6-203];

(e) conduct, as necessary, special studies and undertake research;

(f) participate in interstate, regional, and national planning programs that are relevant to the region; and

(g) review local comprehensive and other plans for consistency with the regional comprehensive plan and other regional plans pursuant to Section [6-401];

(h) gather, tabulate, analyze, and periodically publish information and reports on the location and pace of development throughout the region, including, but not limited to population, housing, economic, and building permit data, and cooperate with the [state planning agency] in this duty so as to minimize duplication;

(i) assess and report on, as necessary, the region's risk from natural hazards, including potential vulnerability of the region's buildings, structures, infrastructure, and health and human services to such hazards, and the implications of those risks to regional and local planning;

(j) serve, in cooperation with the [state planning agency], as the regional clearinghouse agency responsible for coordinating data collection and data dissemination among the state, the private sector, local governments, and special districts;

(k) maintain, as necessary, a computerized geographic information system or support, as necessary, local governments and special districts, in this duty;

(l) cooperate with the Bureau of the Census and other federal agencies to improve access to statistical productions, data, and information available from the federal government;

(m) prepare, at least twice in each decade, a [20]-year population forecast in [5]-year intervals for the region and its local governments, and cooperate with the [state planning office] in this duty so as to minimize duplication; and

(n) maintain a current inventory of local comprehensive plans, zoning ordinances, subdivision regulations, historic preservation and design review ordinances, and other land development regulations for all local governments in the region.

(2) Administration, education, and training. The [regional planning agency] shall:

(a) administer federal and state grant-in-aid programs and other sources of revenue delegated or assigned to the [regional planning agency] by statute, executive order, or administrative rule;

(b) coordinate regional programs with the federal government;

(c) engage in a program of public information and communication regarding its activities;

(d) establish and maintain a regional program to ensure widespread public participation in its planning programs;

(e) have the power to contract with, as necessary, private or nonprofit organizations for assistance in building consensus in connection with any activity undertaken by the [regional planning agency];

(f) provide, as desired by its members, education and training programs in planning, public administration, and related topics to employees of local governments and special districts and to elected and appointed officials and cooperate with the [state planning agency] in the provision of such programs;

(g) have the power to sue and be sued;

(h) have the power to retain, employ, and remove employees, consultants, agents, and attorneys, consistent with its adopted administrative, personnel, and budgetary procedures;

(i) prepare and adopt an annual operating and capital expenditure budget and work program and have the power to expend such budgeted monies;

(j) have the power to apply for and receive state, federal, and private grants and loans;

(k) have the power to adopt rules pursuant to Section [6-105];

(l) have the power to lease and purchase real property; and

(m) prepare a biennial report, pursuant to Section [6-108] below.

(3) Implementation. The [regional planning agency] shall:

[(a) review, [and] comment on, [and] [certify] local plans pursuant to Sections [6-302 and 6-401];]

[(b) review and comment on proposed state plans pursuant to Sections [6-302 and 6-401];]

[(c) nominate properties as areas of critical state concern pursuant to Section [5-204];]

[(d) enter into regional planning and coordination agreements pursuant to Section [6-402];]

[(e) convene parties to formulate urban services agreements pursuant to Section [6-403];]

[(f) participate in the development of regional impact review (DRI) process pursuant to Section [5-301 et seq.];]

(g) establish, by rule pursuant to Section [6-105], a process by which any individual or organization may obtain an opinion from the [regional planning agency] clarifying the application of any goal, policy, or guideline in the regional comprehensive plan or any regional functional plan, except that the [agency] shall not issue an opinion regarding any petition that seeks either to validate or invalidate a specific code, ordinance, administrative rule, regulation, or other instrument of plan implementation;

[(h) review proposals for the formation of special districts that would operate within its boundaries and, within [30] days, submit a report on the areawide significance of the proposed formation to the referring local government(s);]

[(i) review and approve any plans of special districts operating within its boundaries that have an areawide impact [pursuant to Section [6-401]];][63]

[(j) review and comment upon all applications submitted by state agencies, local governments, special districts, and private nonprofit organizations within its boundaries for a loan or grant from a federal department or agency for programs and purposes required by federal law or regulation as to whether the application is consistent with its adopted regional comprehensive plan and any adopted regional functional plan pursuant to Section [6-604(3)];]

[(k) review any major capital facilities projects proposed by any state, agency, local government, or special district to be located within the region's boundaries pursuant to Section [6-401];]

[(l) administer dispute resolution and conflict resolution programs; and]

[(m) have the powers of a local planning commission where the local government, by mutual agreement, transferred or delegated to the [regional planning agency] all or part of the functions, powers, or duties that the local planning commission may perform.]

(4) Service Provision. The [regional planning agency] may:

— The service provision powers and duties in paragraph (4) of this Section are appropriate only if the regional planning agency has expressly been created to provide services as well as engage in regional planning. Service activities have been traditionally carried out by councils of governments or regional agencies created under joint powers agreements. Through such agreements, the authority of the participating local governments is delegated to a public agency created under the agreement.[64]

(a) act as the administrator of a joint exercise of powers agreement entered into pursuant to [the state statute authorizing interlocal contracts or agreements] if requested by the parties to the agreement;


(a) exercise any powers that are exercised, or capable of being exercised by, its member governments and desirable for dealing with problems of mutual concern to the extent that such powers are specifically delegated to it by resolution of the governing board of each of the member governments which are affected thereby;

(b) perform any regional function or activity upon the affirmative vote of a majority of the member local governments, [exclusive of appointees of the governor].[65] The governments must represent at least [60] percent of the region's population, as determined by a formula specified in the [bylaws or agreement establishing the agency]. To finance the function or activity, the [agency] may impose user charges and issue and sell revenue bonds in accordance with procedures prescribed in [insert appropriate state statutory citation], and may accept grants from federal, state, and local governments;

(c) perform, by contract, the purchasing of supplies, services, materials, and equipment on behalf of any [governmental unit] participating in the [agency] or on behalf of any other political subdivision; and

— Service activities are carried out for state governments by councils of governments or regional agencies, and increasingly, for private and civic organizations, such as providing secretariats for regional economic development alliances, regional leadership training programs, and regional leadership forums.

(d) promote cooperative arrangements among its members, and between its members and other agencies of local or state governments (whether or not located within the state), and the federal government.

6-108 Biennial Report

(1) Within [6] months of the end of the fiscal year of each even-numbered year, the executive director of the [regional planning agency] shall prepare a biennial report to the agency's members. The report shall discuss, for the 2 previous years, the [agency]'s activities in preparing and implementing regional plans, describe other activities, provide such other information that may be relevant to the [agency]'s duties and functions, and present the [agency]'s financial statements.[66]

(2) The executive director shall send the biennial report to all member governmental units of the [regional planning agency] and to the [state planning agency], and shall make the report available to the public. Copies shall be deposited in the state library and shall be sent to all public libraries in the region that serve as depositories for state documents.

Plan Preparation

Commentary: Regional Comprehensive Plan

One of the main purposes of regional planning agencies is to prepare and adopt a regional comprehensive plan that is intended to address facilities or resources that affect more than one jurisdiction. It is to provide a framework or, in the words of one early planner, a "skeleton" for local comprehensive planning.[67] Consequently, a regional comprehensive plan should not have the same level of detail as a local plan. Indeed, it is probably undesirable for a regional comprehensive plan to incorporate all local plans, including detailed land use, unless that detail is somehow necessary to carry out the plan's purposes.[68]

Legislation describing a regional comprehensive plan may be of two types:

1. A broadly drafted description written to enable the regional planning agency to undertake any type of regional planning desired by its members and to respond to various federal and state programs calling for such planning. Such a description of a regional plan is appropriate when the state simply wants to authorize regional planning that is to be advisory. Alternative 1, below, is an example of such legislation.

2. A more tightly drafted description with specific components, and perhaps even formats, to ensure that certain goals and policies are addressed by the regional planning process. This approach is preferable when the regional comprehensive plan is intended to be used in connection with a vertically and horizontally integrated state/regional/local planning system, in which various levels of government adjust their planning to coordinate with and account for plans of another governmental level. Alternative 2, below, is a more focused and directive example and defines the plan's substantive contents as well as its relationships with the adopted plans of other governmental units.