What is a Comp Plan and Why Does it Matter?

A City does not grow overnight. Years of communicating, planning, strategizing and organizing are necessary to have it reach its full potential. It takes a clear vision, tangible goals and concerted coordination to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

But how exactly is that accomplished?

That is often done through a City’s Comprehensive Plan. Published every 10 years, the Comprehensive Plan – Comp Plan for short – is a highly detailed overview of what a City wants to become over time, setting the course for the next two decades towards achieving that plan. Case in point, the Comp Plan Columbus is currently following was published in 2020 and projects all the way out to 2040.

It has everything from a City planning perspective, ranging from where houses and businesses can be located and where new parks should be, to future population projections and potential needs that could arise.

The Comp Plan has it all.

That's why, like most Cities’ Comprehensive Plans, Columbus’ plans are often in excess of 300 pages. In fact, the City’s current Comp Plan is 336 pages! That long-winded plan directs the City's future for the next decade plus. With the Comp Plan being so important to a community's future, it is imperative that it accurately reflects what the community wants and what it needs.

But how exactly was the 2040 Comp Plan created?

Since the Comp Plan guides a City for the next decade, it is crucial that it accurately reflects the state of the community and its vision for the future. This whole process is led by the City, with Columbus’ feedback and changes to the plan being brought forth by the City itself. Only once the Comp Plan is finished, if there are changes made by Columbus, or if Columbus asks for assistance in writing the plan, does the Metropolitan Council steps in to help.

Formed in 1967 by way of the Metropolitan Land Planning Act, the Metropolitan Council’s – commonly shortened to Met Council – original goal was to collectively solve wastewater treatment issues. They still do that to this day, looking to have sustainable sources of water for decades to come, but since that original charge, the Council added additional focuses, such as ensuring that every citizen has access to transportation, world-class regional parks and affordable housing, just to name a few.

Its influence is commonly noticed in the inner part of the Twin Cities, with the light rail system and bus lines. Given the nearly 30 miles separating Columbus from Minneapolis and St. Paul’s City Halls, those particular services offered by the Met Council don’t extend all the way to our community, but that doesn’t mean the Council doesn’t offer services for the City – far from it. One of the ways it helps all Cities in the metro area – including Columbus – is by helping to facilitate these types of conversations while constructing Comp Plans, as well as researching statistics, trends and forecasts to help guide those discussions.

In particular, the City’s new District 11 representative at Met Council, Dr. Gail Cederberg, and sector representative Tim Anderson are extremely helpful, as they know the northeast metro best and can help Columbus decipher Met Council’s information to forecast impacts on Columbus. Dr. Cederberg has a history of working with dealing with environmental issues, as she received her master's degree in environmental engineering and holds a doctorate in civil engineering. She has over 20 years of experience in ensuring sustainable growth for businesses, while preserving the environment and water quality – something incredibly important to a landscape like Columbus.

Public feedback regarding Comp Plans is extremely important. When initially drafting a Comp Plan, Dr. Cederberg hopes that several different dates and times throughout over multiple years are available for community input. That way, each member of the community can contribute and make sure that the process is equal and equitable for all. Columbus citizens should keep an eye out for those opportunities when time comes to create the 2050 Comp Plan.

Met Council reviews the City’s plan and make their decision from there. If the plan meets the Met Council’s greater goals for all cities in the Metro region as set in the Thrive MSP 2040 Plan, then it will get approved! Otherwise, they will say why the plan is not in line with their goals and how to fix them. This way all communities in the Twin Cities area can achieve their full potential.

And that, of course, includes Columbus.