Comprehensive Planning

A south-facing picture of the General Pierce Bridge between Montague City and Greenfield in very early spring. The deep blue of the sky is reflected in the water.

What is comprehensive planning?

Comprehensive planning is an open, public process that identifies a community’s vision for its physical and economic development. Consensus about the town’s future is reached through dialogue between residents, workers, property owners, business owners, civic organizations, Town officials, boards, and committees. A completed comprehensive plan is the town’s basis for decision-making about the connections between population, economy, housing, transportation, community facilities, development, land use, natural and cultural resource protection, climate change resiliency, and existing planning initiatives.

Two people walking down a sidewalk in early spring next to Rutters Park playground in Millers Falls.
An approximately 3 feet by 3 feet by 1 foot cement sculpture of a paper mill with the inside machinery revealed and the letters P A P E R across the top. Sitting on a bench in downtown Turners Falls
A great blue heron wading in water with aquatic plants around.

A comprehensive plan includes a community vision statement, a description of existing conditions, an analysis of data trends and projections, and goals and recommendations.

A completed comprehensive plan is adopted by the Planning Board. Plans may be changed from time to time, with both the original and updated plan made part of the public record.

With a comprehensive plan, Montague is eligible for State and Federal grant funds to implement the community’s vision.

A comprehensive plan helps communities:

  • Manage growth and change
  • Strengthen climate change resiliency
  • Provide for orderly and predictable development
  • Protect environmental resources
  • Set priorities for public infrastructure and public facilities
  • Strengthen local identity
  • Create a framework for future policy decisions
  • Promote open, democratic planning
  • Provide guidance to land owners, developers, and permitting authorities
  • Be eligible for state and federal funding

What are the elements of a comprehensive plan?

A comprehensive plan always contains the following:

A Land Use section identifying existing land uses and designating the proposed location and inter-relationship of public and private land uses. This section also examines how projected population changes will be affected by available land and capacity of facilities and services. A land use plan map is included.

A Housing section identifying and analyzing existing and forecasted housing needs and objectives, including programs for the preservation, improvement, and development of housing. This element also identifies policies and strategies designed to provide a balance of local housing opportunities for all citizens.

An Economic Development section identifying policies and strategies for the expansion or stabilization of the local economic base and the promotion of employment opportunities.

A Natural and Cultural Resources section providing an inventory of the significant natural, cultural, and historic resource areas of the town, and suggesting policies and strategies for the protection and management of such areas.

An Open Space and Recreation section providing an inventory of recreational resources and open space areas, and outlining policies and strategies for the management and protection of such resources and areas.

A Services and Facilities section taking note of municipal and other services provided to the community, as well as facilities necessary to enable those services. This element also identifies and analyzes existing conditions and anticipated needs for those facilities and services used by the public.

A Circulation section examining systems and networks for all modes of transportation (pedestrian, bicycle, vehicle, public transit, etc.), and presenting an inventory of existing and proposed circulation and transportation systems.

An Implementation section defining and scheduling the specific municipal actions necessary to achieve the objectives of each element of the plan. This may include:

  • Scheduled expansion or replacement of public facilities;
  • Repairs, improvements, or additions to transportation system components; and
  • Anticipated costs and revenues associated with such activities.

This section should coordinate with any other similar capital asset management efforts (such as through the Town’s Capital Planning Committee). This section should also specify the process by which the Town’s regulatory structures (Town Code, zoning, etc.) will be amended to be consistent with the master plan.

Throughout this plan, the issue of climate change and resiliency will be addressed in each of the sections above so that Montague is prepared to thrive in a changing future.

Some communities add Supplements to the above requirements, including elements that focus on specific local needs or policy interests such as villages, smart growth, energy, education, governance, or public health.

For more information, refer to  Section 81D of Chapter 41 of the General Laws.