Friday, September 29, 2023 Blog · News

What is a Comprehensive Plan?

by Lily Abromeit

A comprehensive plan, or comp plan, is a document that expresses the collective vision and goals of a specific region and is used as a long-range planning document to inform and guide decision-making. 

Comprehensive plans are adopted by counties and municipalities across the state. This is in accordance with Article 3 of the South Carolina Local Government Comprehensive Planning Enabling Act of 1994. 

 What Does a Comprehensive Plan Cover? 

  • Land Use 
  • Housing 
  • Community Facilities 
  • Parks & Recreation 
  • Resilience 
  • And more 

Why Should Community Members Participate in the Process?  

A comprehensive plan is a blueprint for the future of your community and your chance to help inform policy and decision-making. And, it’s collaborative, meaning elected officials, planning staff, business owners, community organizations, and citizens all have a say. 

What Should We Look for in Comp Plans? 

  • A detailed Future Land Use Map which clearly defines areas appropriate for growth, and those rural and natural areas that need to be protected from inappropriate development. 
  • A robust “Natural Resources” element that inventories and prioritizes protections for our unique, sensitive coastal environments and the wildlife that inhabit them.  
  • A thorough “resilience” element that addresses challenges such as sea level rise, flooding, increased severity of storms, and a changing climate. 
  • Recommendations for tools to curb suburban sprawl and concentrate development in already developed areas such as urban growth boundaries, rural zoning categories, and transfer of development rights programs. 
  • A holistic, community-driven document that balances many important elements such as culture, the economy, transportation, and infrastructure needs.

What is Zoning? 

Zoning helps guide land use patterns and establishes standards for new development, and can help achieve specific goals outlined in a comprehensive plan, such as promoting new development in appropriate areas, protecting the character of rural areas, and limiting impacts to sensitive natural resources like wetlands and waterways. 

For example, rural zoning can protect working farms by allowing for agricultural uses and limiting higher-density development that is more appropriate for urban areas.  


Towns and Counties in the process of updating their Comprehensive Plans:   


Georgetown County is in the process of updating their Comprehensive Plan, and in 2020, the state legislature added a requirement for a resiliency element that “considers the impacts of flooding, high water, and natural hazards on individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, economic development, public infrastructure and facilities, and public health, safety and welfare.” The resiliency element is also meant to incorporate goals and strategies of the other elements included in the comprehensive plan. So far, Georgetown County has adopted the Housing, Cultural Resources, and Transportation elements. 



The Town of Awendaw officially began the process of updating their comprehensive plan in July 2023. Awendaw is one of the last remaining rural communities in Charleston County east of the Cooper River and this crucial planning document will inform all land use and development decisions in Awendaw over the next ten to twenty years. We hope to see recommendations for dedicated areas for future development in appropriate places, strategies to address pollution from densely concentrated septic tanks, protections for longstanding rural settlement areas, and new buffers and safeguards for critical natural areas like Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge and the Francis Marion National Forest. 



In August 2023, Yemassee hosted an input session with community members to vote on different priorities for its new comprehensive plan. Yemassee is uniquely positioned near the ACE Basin, one of the largest undeveloped wetland ecosystems remaining on the Atlantic Coast. The Town is also not far from the Pocolatigo River, part of the Port Royal Sound watershed. We hope the Town’s plan will make recommendations to revitalize the downtown area while protecting surrounding natural resources, and suggest an urban growth boundary for the Town. A draft of the plan will be considered by the Town’s planning commission in the coming months and will then go to Town Council for two readings before it is adopted.  


Jasper County

Jasper County adopted its comprehensive plan in 2018 and retained a consultant in June 2023 to work on its five-year updates. The comprehensive plan updates are coinciding with a 270-day moratorium on certain development patterns in an area known as the Euhaw-Broad River Corridor. Over the fall months through the winter, the County will host stakeholder engagement meetings, consider changes to its zoning ordinance, and discuss altering its future land use map to further increase protections for environmentally sensitive areas. We look forward to participating in these discussions and will continue to encourage community members to attend these meetings.

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