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Creating Land Use Goals,

Objectives, Policies and
Included in this chapter:
■ Defining Goals, Objectives, Policies and Programs
■ Involving the Public to Build Consensus
■ Writing the Goals, Objectives, Policies and Programs
■ Integrating the Goals of Other Elements
■ Implementing Goals and Objectives

Introduction to establish a framework for future decision-

Creating goals, objectives, policies and
programs is a critical step in the development About two-thirds of Wisconsin communities
of the land use element. Not only are goals, surveyed in January 20047 indicated that
objectives, policies and programs required the development of goals and objectives
under the comprehensive planning statute, was a moderately easy process. However
but these statements provide a basis for ,respondents noted a number of challenges:
a community to make decisions about its • The differences between and the actual
future land use. Once your community has function of goals, objectives, policies and
collected and analyzed information, it is time programs were not well understood.

Roberts, Rebecca and Chin-Chun Tang. 2004. The Wisconsin Planning Experience: Results from the Community Planning
Survey. www.uwsp.edu/cnr/landcenter/pubs.html.
Chapter 5 – Creating Land Use Goals, Objectives, Policies and Programs

• Articulating goals was difficult. a good chance the objective may actually be
• Objectives were not measurable. more appropriately written as a goal.
• There was a lack of public involvement.
• There was a difficulty in reaching Policies are “operational” actions that a
consensus on goals, objectives, policies community will undertake to meet the
and programs. goals and objectives. Communities have
This chapter will focus on these challenges, many policies; some will relate to the
as they relate to the land use element. comprehensive plan, while others may not.
Many of the concepts offered in this Keep in mind these policies may be existing
chapter can be applied when creating goals, or can be newly created within the planning
objectives, policies and programs for other process. Some policies will require further
comprehensive plan elements. action by the local government such as an
ordinance or resolution. When drafting
policies, it is best to identify in the plan
Defining Goals, Objectives, Policies which are existing policies, new ones that can
and Programs be implemented immediately, or ones that
need further approvals from the governing
Goals and objectives are the things that a body.
community hopes to accomplish—how the
community would like to be in the future. Other Definitions
They provide direction for community
decisions. Land use policies are the rules Goal: A desired state of affairs to which
or actions that a community intends to planned effort is directed. From
implement to meet the desired goals and “Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook,”
American Planning Association, 1998.
Objective: A goal or end toward the
There are several ways to define goals, attainment of which plans and policies are
objectives, policies and programs for land directed. From “A Development Plan
use. Here are a few straightforward, planning for Waukesha County, WI”, Southeastern
definitions for each of the terms. Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission,
Goals are general statements of desired
outcomes of the community. While often Policy: A general rule for action focused
broadly written, goals should be stated on a specific issue, and derived from
specifically enough so that it is possible to more general goals. From “Growing
Smart Legislative Guidebook,” American
assess whether progress has been made in
Planning Association, 1998.
achieving them.
Program: A group of related projects and
Objectives are more specific and are a subset activities with a specified set of resources
of goals, providing measurable strategies. (human, capital, and financial) directed to
Objectives should not stand alone without a the achievement of a set of common goals
goal. If an objective does not fit under a goal within a specified period of time. web.
and it is considered important, then there is idrc.ca/ accessed May 2005.

Chapter 5 – Creating Land Use Goals, Objectives, Policies and Programs

Programs are a system of projects or developed by the Town.

services necessary to achieve plan goals, • Seek to encourage developers
objectives, and policies. (Grant Closeout to install sidewalks in their new
Form, Department of Administration, June developments.
2004) • Work with the County and other
specialists to identify needed
Below is an example of a goal, objectives, sidewalk routes to provide
policies and programs. It is meant to be opportunities for safe pedestrian
illustrative. travel in Forest Junction.
Policy c. Maintain existing identification
Example from City and Town of Brillion signage, including the water tower
Land Use Element identification marker.
Goal: Promote the rural, farming (OMNNI & Associates)
atmosphere in the Town and the “small
town” feel of the City. The key to developing goals, objectives,
City Objective: Promote dense policies and programs is to remain flexible
residential development patterns in enough in the process, understand and
the City to encourage walking to embrace the differences between people’s
shopping, work and community (i.e., ideas and visions, and make sure that the
parks/schools) destinations. language is consistent with other plan goals.
Policy a. Continue to maintain and
extend sidewalks throughout the
community. Involving the Public to Build
Policy b. Coordinate with local students Consensus
and parents to inventory, assess, and
identify sidewalk and trail needs. An overall challenge of the planning
Town Objective: Improve the Forest process is involving the public to help build
Junction area so that it may become consensus. The challenge for developing
a community focal point for quality goals, objectives, policies and programs
development. is that people often have a difficult time
Policy a. Work with the county to understanding how they will work in real-
enforce existing and consider life. Sometimes the thought is that goals,
new overlay landscape and sign objectives, policies and programs do not
regulations to improve community really matter. To a large extent, developing
appearance. goals and objectives should be thought
Policy b. Work with local property of as your community stating its values.
owners and Calumet County to These statements will create a lasting
encourage sidewalk development impression through short sentences of what
throughout Forest Junction. your community cares about. Identifying
Program would: objectives and specific policies also bring the
• Include information about the broad goals to life.
benefits of sidewalks in any
newsletter or web page eventually

Chapter 5 – Creating Land Use Goals, Objectives, Policies and Programs

In some communities, people will have many have been set (see insert below), a facilitator
differing views. Friction can occur quickly, can refer back to the rules and remind others
making building consensus a challenge. to have patience with others’ opinions.
Although views are often not far apart
from each other, the reality of developing Understanding where individual concerns
the appropriate language to describe those lie is important to the process of building
values can become controversial. However, consensus on the goals. Disagreements can
developing consensus on goals and objectives include serious fundamental differences
is not an impossible task. It sometimes takes with specific draft goals or be as simple as
a more iterative approach to accomplish, minor wording changes to improve goal
meaning a community needs to revisit its language. Fundamental differences should
goals, objectives, and policies as it moves be approached carefully, considering most
through the process. Discussion, negotiation differences are value based and can be quite
and compromise are expected when personal. A good facilitator can offer a level
developing goals to achieve a broad range of playing field for participants by keeping
community interests. the discussion moving forward, thwarting
personal attacks, and offering feedback to the
Reaching Consensus solutions offered by participants.
A good facilitator enables a community to
step back from the emotions and focus on
the content of the disagreement. Setting Writing Land Use Goals, Objectives,
ground rules for discussion before major Policies and Programs
disagreements are raised is critical to
advancing the discussion. Once ground rules The goals, objectives, policies and
programs for the land use element should
focus on guiding “the future development
Example Ground Rules for Reaching
and redevelopment of public and private
• Respect others and their opinions. property.” (s. 66.1001, (2)(h), Wis. Stats.)
• There is no such thing as winners or losers Goal language should be developed to be
in these discussions. attainable, while keeping in mind how goals
• Everyone will be offered an opportunity to can be implemented.
add comments, offer concerns, and make
suggestions. In developing land use goals, there is a need
• Everyone must allow the person to start with a base level of data to help shape
commenting to complete his or her what is desired for the future. For many
thoughts, without interruption. communities, the development of land use
• Personally criticizing others for their
goal language will include initiating draft
opinions will not be allowed.
language, discussing what each goal means
• If a person raises an issue, then a potential
solution must also be given. to the community and identifying concerns,
• Everyone should focus on completing the questions or unclear aspects of the goal.
task at hand. Often duplicative goals are combined, and
• No shouting. more specific language is moved under a
goal into an objective or policy. Developing

Chapter 5 – Creating Land Use Goals, Objectives, Policies and Programs

objectives often occurs simultaneously with alternative ways to achieve community goals
goal development. is a critical part of the planning process. The
community also needs to establish indicators
In setting goals, the community should to measure the community’s progress toward
answer the following questions: What achieving its goals.
does your community see as important land
use issues? How should the community
balance future development with other plan Tips for Writing Goals, Objectives &
goals such as limiting traffic congestion Policies
and preserving farmland? How will your • Focus on writing succinct language
community’s land use affect the surrounding – keep it simple, but brief.
region? • Avoid writing too many goals and too
few objectives and policies.
The community also needs to establish • Remember there are often multiple
objectives. Objectives are more specific objectives and policies under one goal.
statements that relate to a goal (see Table
4). In creating objectives, your community
should think of them as stepping stones. Techniques for Developing Goals,
How can a goal be achieved by a set of Objectives, Policies and Programs
tangible and measurable statements? There is no one correct way of developing
goals, objectives, policies and programs.
After setting goals and objectives, the It is recommended that a trained, neutral
community then needs to establish policies. facilitator with experience in developing
Policies are used to guide community goals, assists your community in this process.
decisions in pursuit of a goal and objectives. Facilitation assistance is available through
Policies should provide specific guidance your local planning office, some state
to elected and appointed officials on what agencies, the County Extension Office and
decision to make when confronted with other sources. Facilitating goal development
specific land use issues following plan can also be written into a contractual service
adoption. agreement if your community is employing a
consultant to assist in the preparation of your
In setting goals, objectives, policies and plan.
programs, communities need to rely on the
information gathered in the earlier steps Starting with the development of a broad set
and then explore alternatives. Evaluation of of goals and then narrowing to objectives
and specific policies is generally a good
Table 4 idea. If your community has never engaged
Basic Differences Between Goals and Objectives in planning in the past, brainstorming and
Goals Objectives collecting many ideas will be most beneficial.
If your community has previously developed
Broad Narrow
a plan, it is recommended that the goals
General Precise
contained in the previous plan are examined
Intangible Tangible and considered. When someone has an
Abstract Concrete
Chapter 5 – Creating Land Use Goals, Objectives, Policies and Programs

idea or specific goal language, it should Although the incorporation of the

be documented. After reaching the end of comprehensive planning goals is only
brainstorming, goals can be sifted through a requirement for communities with a
to determine if there is overlap, duplication, Comprehensive Planning Grant from the
conflicting statements, or goals in need of State’s Department of Administration, you
further consideration. Oftentimes, language may choose to include these as part of your
will be too specific for a goal but may work community’s plan.
as an objective or policy. Using a “parking
lot” to place those ideas is helpful so that they may also be policies developed outside
do not become lost in the process. Policies of the land use element that will fit more
are more commonly developed throughout appropriately under a land use goal or
the process, well outside of the brainstorming objective. Being flexible is important while
activities for goals. Having a good note taker keeping the process moving forward.
to keep track of these ideas will be important
when determining land use policies. There

State Comprehensive Planning Goals 7. Encouragement of coordination and

cooperation among nearby units of
As a starting point, the State’s Comprehensive government.
Planning law contains 14 goals. Although all 8. Building of community identity by
of these goals may not apply to a particular revitalizing main streets and enforcing
community, they are worth reviewing. design standards.
9. Providing an adequate supply of affordable
A list of the goals: housing for individuals of all income levels
1. Promotion of the redevelopment of throughout each community.
lands with existing infrastructure and 10. Providing adequate infrastructure and
public services and the maintenance and public services and an adequate supply
rehabilitation of existing residential, of developable land to meet existing and
commercial and industrial structures. future market demand for residential,
2. Encouragement of neighborhood designs commercial and industrial uses.
that support a range of transportation 11. Promoting the expansion or stabilization of
choices. the current economic base and the creation
3. Protection of natural areas, including of a range of employment opportunities at
wetlands, wildlife habitats, lakes, the state, regional and local levels.
woodlands, open spaces and groundwater 12. Balancing individual property rights with
resources. community interests and goals.
4. Protection of economically productive 13. Planning and development of land uses
areas, including farmland and forests. that create or preserve varied and unique
5. Encouragement of land uses, densities urban and rural communities.
and regulations that promote efficient 14. Providing an integrated, efficient and
development patterns and relatively low economical transportation system that
municipal, state governmental and utility affords mobility, convenience and safety
costs. and that meets the needs of all citizens,
6. Preservation of cultural, historic and including transit–dependent and disabled
archaeological sites. citizens.

Chapter 5 – Creating Land Use Goals, Objectives, Policies and Programs

Integrating the Goals of Other a reasonable timeline for when this will
Elements occur and who will be responsible for
its development. Chapter 9 will discuss
Another important part of goal development monitoring progress of your community’s
is making sure that land use goals do not goals, objectives, policies and programs.
conflict with other goals from the housing,
transportation, or utilities and community How Does Your Community Implement
facilities element, for example. When Goals?
faced with multiple goals within a planning Simply put, a community’s actions, activities,
process, the language for each of the elements policies, zoning decisions, and future land
can appear to contradict one another.8 use map are ways to implement goals and
objectives. Sometimes those actions may not
Land use goals should be shaped to support be directly associated with a comprehensive
the goals from other elements. For example, planning effort; however, land use related
if a community has included in its housing activities and decisions should relate back
element the goal of improving the availability to an adopted goal. Chapter 8 will discuss
of senior housing, the land use element implementation in more detail.
may include a broader goal of providing
a sufficient supply of land for a range of One important way to ensure your
housing choices. community implements its desired goals
and objectives is to continue to use the
comprehensive plan to make land use
Implementing Goals and Objectives decisions. Consistency between the
comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances,
This chapter has addressed the issue of subdivision regulations and the official map
why goals are important, but they are only is required by 2010. Keeping elected officials
important if efforts are made to implement and plan commissioners (especially newly
goals. elected or appointed officials) aware of the
comprehensive plan, its content, and the legal
Prioritizing Goals requirements to make consistent decisions is
Naturally, there are priorities that surface critical to successfully implementing goals.
throughout the process. Your community
should spend some time discussing priorities If a community is making decisions in
and the approach you would like to take. conflict with plan goals, there is good reason
To implement goals through objectives to review those goals and revise the plan if
and policies, your community will need necessary. Keep in mind that a combination
to prioritize action items. For example, if of multiple actions and activities are usually
the plan goes into detail about ordinance necessary to implement a goal. Balancing
revisions needed to address preservation of various goals is a tricky but important aspect
agriculture areas, you will need to identify of implementing your community’s plan.

See Tang, Chin-Chun. 2003. “Integrating the Local Economy and Natural Resources in the Planning Process,” The Land Use
Tracker, Volume 3, Issue 2, Fall. www.uwsp.edu/cnr/landcenter/newsletters.html.
Chapter 6 provides an overview of the
process to create land use alternatives or
scenarios. Although developing scenarios
is not required in a comprehensive plan, it
is a useful tool for quantifying the impacts
of various land use scenarios, selecting the
most appropriate alternative, and ultimately
developing your community’s future land use