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Don’t Forget the Priority Investment Element

South Carolina’s Comprehensive Planning Enabling Act, found in SC Code Title 6, Chapter 29, requires that cities and towns that decide to adopt zoning and land use regulations must take several steps: establish a local planning commission, and adopt a comprehensive plan every 10 years. The law further requires the comprehensive plan to explore the community’s assets and needs as they relate to 10 named elements. These elements are population, economic development, natural resources, cultural resources, community facilities, housing, land use, transportation, priority investment and resiliency. 

The priority investment element, which promotes collaboration among different levels of government, is an often-overlooked but important part of a comprehensive plan. 

This element requires an analysis of all funds that are likely to be available for infrastructure and facilities during the 10 years foreseen by the plan, including potential federal, state and local funding. The plan should also name recommendations for how these funds could be spent on such needs as water and sewer infrastructure, roads and schools, and then provide written notification of these recommendations to “adjacent and relevant jurisdictions and agencies” and give them opportunities to comment. This could be everything from a county government to a school district, a transportation agency, public service district, or any kind of public or private utility. 

In some municipalities, the kind of planning collaboration promoted by this requirement is formalized with planning entities that have shared jurisdiction in two local governments, such as the Sumter City-County Planning Department, or the Beaufort – Town of Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission. 

Those interested in the comprehensive plan process can learn more in the Municipal Association’s Comprehensive Planning Guide for Local Governments. It explains how planning commissions can develop and revise the 10 elements of the comprehensive plan. It also explains the structure and functions of planning commissions and boards of architectural review.