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Learn About Comprehensive Plans

  • What is the Comprehensive Plan?
    “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” – Yogi Berra Comprehensive Plans are long-range planning documents that establish a shared vision for where a community wants to be in 20+ years and includes strategies to achieve that vision. Nelson County’s Comprehensive Plan sets the framework or “roadmap” for future development of the County.
  • How is the Comprehensive Plan used?
    The Comprehensive Plan is the guiding document that County departments, citizens, employers, developers, and other stakeholders use to ensure that Nelson County evolves in line with our collective vision for the future. For example, the Department of Planning & Zoning uses the Plan to evaluate projects, developers use the Plan to guide their proposals, and the community uses the Plan to hold the County accountable. Having a visionary and up-to-date Comprehensive Plan is critical to the long-term success of the County.
  • What does a Comprehensive Plan include?
    The Comprehensive Plan is a long-range, high-level planning document that addresses topics such as land use, development, community amenities, transportation, housing, and the economy. The plan outlines the community’s long-term vision and strategies to achieve that vision. The policies defined in this document guide the County’s future direction and priorities for growth, services, and land use regulation. These policies and strategies are described through text, diagrams, graphics, and maps.
  • Why does the County need a Comprehensive Plan?
    Comprehensive Plans are an essential planning tool for the County. As such, they are required by State Law. Under Code of Virginia §15.2-2223, local governments in Virginia are required to adopt a Comprehensive Plan and to review that plan every 5 years for necessary updates. Nelson County’s current Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2002 and last updated in 2014. The County has launched this effort to update the Comprehensive Plan to ensure that the Plan aligns with recent planning efforts, considers current population and demographic projections, and remains responsive to the needs of the County.
  • What is the update process?
    The Comprehensive Planning process is divided roughly into four phases: Data Gathering & Analysis; Public Input; Plan Development; and Review, Adoption, & Implementation. Once the plan is accepted by officials it is then a legal statement of community policy in regard to future development. The work doesn’t stop when the plan is adopted. The plan must be implemented, and part of implementation is continual review, monitoring, and updating.
  • Who is involved in the development of the Comprehensive Plan?
    The plan update will be led by the County’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, and will also engage citizens, businesses, and other stakeholders. The current Comprehensive Plan will be evaluated, community information will be updated, and new priorities, goals, and strategies will be established for the County based on input from the participants. An important part of a Comprehensive Plan is public input, so we encourage the citizens of Nelson to be an active part of this update process by participating in the public workshops, survey, and open house.
  • How can I become involved?
    There are multiple opportunities to get involved and share your vision for the future of Nelson. Opportunities include a public input survey, a youth art challenge, and public input workshops. Stay up to date and hear about upcoming events by subscribing and following the plan update at
  • How does the Comprehensive Plan become approved and by whom?
    The Comprehensive Plan is reviewed and recommended for approval by the County’s Planning Commission and then adopted as a resolution by the County Board of Supervisors. Citizens and stakeholders can voice their opinions about the final Plan during the adoption process.
  • How does the Comprehensive Plan relate to other County-wide plans and regulation?
    The Comprehensive Plan sets the high-level framework for land use and related policies. Other County-wide plans provide more prescriptive or specific guidance for implementation at the policy level. Though having a plan is required, the content of the plan is not regulatory. Rather, a Comprehensive Plan is a decision-making guide for changes to the natural and built environment in a community. A Comprehensive Plan is the basis for regulatory tools such as zoning and subdivision ordinances.
  • What is the difference between land use planning and zoning?
    A key component of the Comprehensive Plan is the Future Land Use Map. The map describes general, ideal future land use patterns in the community. It does not directly regulate private property, rather it is a guide for officials when evaluating growth and development projects. In this way, the Future Land Use Map is different from the Official Zoning Map, which does regulate use and development on individual parcels of land.
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