Environmental and Land Use Planning
Project Management and Facilitation

Willistown Comprehensive Plan

Comprehensive plans are intended to help communities chart their future. The purpose of the plan for this community, located outside Philadelphia in Chester County, Pennsylvania, was to provide a rational basis for municipal decision-making over many years, be it to protect community values, guide growth, or provide adequate community services. The plan describes goals and policies which together constitute a set of guidelines for municipal action coupled with strategies by which the plan’s policies can be implemented.

While comprehensive plans are commonplace in most communities, and in fact are often required under state law for communities wishing to regulate land development, the scope of the plans and their value to a community can vary greater. Some communities downplay their comprehensive plans, preferring to react to development on a case-by-case basis. Willistown chose a different path. With the help of Gaadt Perspectives, this community elected to devote significant energy to standard plan endeavors – such as community features inventories, community facilities assessments, and growth strategy planning, among others – as well as to the creation of guiding principles for plan implementation that culminate in a series of implementation strategies.

Through a series of in-house meetings and public workshops/charrettes a series of guiding principles emerged that were ultimately embraced by the community at large. These included the desire to manage growth sustainably (defined as the ability to meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs), embrace a strong land and resource preservation ethic, focus on the developed portions of the community for infill and redevelopment, and continue cooperative planning and problem solving at the regional level. Armed with these guiding principles, the community developed a series of implementation strategies tied to the plan’s overall goals – protecting community values, guiding future growth, and providing community facilities and services. For each goal, a series of implementation strategies were developed that assigns responsible parties, a time frame for action (ongoing, short term, or long term), and funding options and/or resource needs.

Willistown chose to put words to action and the result is a comprehensive plan that is referred to often by both the municipality and the community at large.