A land use plan is a collection of policies and maps that serves as a community’s blueprint for growth. These plans are a fundamental element of coastal management in North Carolina.
The Coastal Area Management Act requires each of the 20 coastal counties to have a local land use plan in accordance with guidelines established by the Coastal Resources Commission (15A NCAC 07B).
The CRC's guidelines provide a common format for each plan and a set of issues that must be considered during the planning process; however, the policies included in the plan are those of the local government, not of the CRC. By law, the role of the CRC is limited to determining whether plans have been properly prepared.
Each land use plan includes local policies that address growth issues such as the protection of productive resources (i.e., farmland, forest resources, fisheries), desired types of economic development, natural resource protection and the reduction of storm hazards.
Once a land use plan is certified by the CRC, the Division of Coastal Management uses the plan in making CAMA permit decisions and federal consistency determinations. Proposed projects and activities must be consistent with the policies of a local land use plan, or DCM cannot permit a project to go forward.
At the local level, land use plans provide guidance for both individual projects and a broad range of policy issues, such as the development of regulatory ordinances and public investment programs.
The Division of Coastal Management provides technical assistance to local governments through its planners, who are located in the division's district offices.
By 1997, 72 cities and towns had adopted their own plans, although CAMA does not require them to do so. By 1999, each of the 20 coastal counties – and many towns – had updated its plan four times, improving the quality of the plan with each update. See which communities have CAMA land-use plans.
Land use planning provides one of the best opportunities for public involvement in the N.C. Coastal Management Program. By getting involved as your coastal community develops or updates its land use plan, you have an opportunity to help shape the policies that will guide CAMA permit decisions in your community – and the growth of your community in the future.