Chapter 15 | Fitting the Plans Together: the Regional Perspective


Few communities today exist in isolation from others. A significant majority of U.S. residents live in urban or suburban communities that often touch four or five or six other communities and that are affected by the future plans of dozens of others. Local planning makes the most sense if it is placed in a regional context. This chapter discusses the relative lack of regional planning in the United States but gives a handful examples of significant success stories. It also discusses such sub-regional planning techniques as laws that allow some cities and towns to plan and control the development of some lands beyond their own boundaries. Finally, the chapter examines briefly the evolving role of “megapolitan” areas and other mega-regions.

Weblinks from Chapter

Weblinks Related to Notes

Note: The following websites are the source of data about local governments, cited in paragraph form in text, with footnotes. The links from the footnotes are:


  1. Do you live in a metropolitan region? If so, how many cities, towns, and counties are part of that region? Do all of them have plans? Is there a regional plan? Do local plans conform to that regional plan? Do local plans fit together into any kind of logical whole?
  2. If you do not live in a metropolitan region, how many other local governments make decisions that would seem to affect your community directly? Do all of them have plans? Is there a regional or even a county-wide plan?
  3. Are one or two communities dominating the new development activity in your region? Can you determine why? Look at recent infrastructure investments in the region. What other issues might influence that pattern?
  4. Go to the library or talk to the local planning office to see if there has ever been a regional plan for your region—many were funded by federal and state agencies in the 1970s. If you can get a copy, see if it still seems like a good plan. Is it better than what has happened?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is there not more regional planning in your community? What are the arguments that local officials might make against regional planning? What arguments might individual citizens make against regional planning? Who would create the regional plan? Who would ensure that local governments followed it?


  • See the Adirondack Park Agency, Pinelands Commission and Regional Plan Association, all listed above under “weblinks from chapter”
  • Even within the large area of the Regional Plan Association, there are smaller-scale “regional” plans. See, for example, the “Conservation and Development Plan” for several cities in Southwest Connecticut.
  • Because most Metropolitan Planning Organizations (see Chapter 8) include multiple counties for transportation planning purposes, MPOs sometimes facilitate multi-county land-use planning efforts. See, for example:
  • Some organizations that serve as MPOs also provide broader regional functions. For a good example, see the Gulf Coast Regional Commission, which serves 14 counties along the Mississippi coast and includes Biloxi, Ocean Springs and a number of other coastal communities.

Supplemental Resources

  • The National Association of Regional Councils “serves as the national voice for regionalism.”  Although many of the program of its member councils focus on social issues rather than land-use, it is a valuable resource.

Common Search Terms

Use these terms in search engines to find additional examples and other resources:

regional plan, metropolitan planning organization (MPO)