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Data for Decision Makers
Data for Decision Makers reports can be generated by visiting the ISU Extension and Outreach Indicators Portal.
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Glossary of Common Planning and Zoning Terms
More than 150 common planning and zoning terms are defined.
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Planning and Zoning Roles and Responsibilities - Elected Officials
City councils or county boards of supervisors are the primary policy-making entities responsible for setting the direction of the community’s government. These policies address how land in the community is to be used in the future.

This Fact Sheet addresses three important functions:
  • Adopting plans and ordinances
  • Approving development proposals
  • Making appointments to boards, commissions and, in some communities, staff positions.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning Roles and Responsibilities - Planning Commission
The planning commission primarily acts in an advisory capacity to the elected body. The commission studies issues, oversees the preparation of plans and ordinances, and reviews and advises on development proposals. The Iowa Code spells out two specific responsibilities for the planning commission related to the development and maintenance of the zoning ordinance.

This Fact Sheet addresses Iowa Code and other responsibilities:
  • Prepare the Zoning Ordinance – Iowa Code
  • Review and Recommend Zoning Amendments and Updates – Iowa Code
  • Other Zoning-related Responsibilities
  • Other Responsibilities

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning - Being an Effective Planning Commission
Because of its status as an advisory body, the role of the planning commission is often not well understood by citizens, others in local government, or even the commissioners themselves. This frequently leads to isolation or marginalization of the commission. What can the commission do for itself to ensure relevance and effectiveness? This Fact Sheet offers some tips and references.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning Roles and Responsibilities - The Zoning Board of Adjustment
Iowa Code §§ 335.15 (counties) and 414.12 (cities) provide identical mandates for zoning boards of adjustment. These statutes are very specific in limiting the functions of the board of adjustment to (1) hearing appeals of decisions made by the zoning administrator, (2) granting or denying special exceptions (also referred to as "special uses" or "conditional uses"), and (3) granting or denying variances. This Fact Sheet discusses each of these issues.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning Roles and Responsibilities - The Zoning Administrator
The availability of staff to assist in performing planning and zoning functions varies widely from community to community. At a minimum, every community that has adopted a zoning ordinance must have an official charged with the administration of the ordinance. The zoning administrator is typically the first contact for citizens applying for any type of permit required by the zoning ordinance. This Fact Sheet outlines the principal duties of the zoning administrator.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning - The Purpose of the Comprehensive Plan
The comprehensive plan, also known as a general plan, master plan or land use plan, is a document designed to guide the future actions of a city or county. The comprehensive plan also presents a vision for the future with long-range goals and objectives for all activities that affect the local government. This includes guidance on how to make decisions on public and private land development proposals. This Fact Sheet discusses the functions of the city or county comprehensive plan.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning - Iowa Smart Planning Principles - Iowa Code 18B.1
State agencies, local governments, and other public entities shall consider and may apply the principles included in this fact sheet during deliberation of all appropriate planning, zoning, development and resource management decisions. Note: Nothing in this section shall be construed to expand the eminent domain authority of a state agency, local government, or other public entity beyond that which is authorized under chapter 6A or 6B of the Iowa Code.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning - Thirteen Elements of a Comprehensive Plan from the Iowa Smart Planning Law - Iowa Code 18B.2
Subsection 2: A municipality [meaning a city or county] shall consider the smart planning principles under section 18B.1 and may include the following elements, if applicable, when developing or amending a comprehensive plan under chapter 335 or chapter 414 or when developing or amending other local land development regulations.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning - Process for Adopting a Comprehensive Plan Added to Iowa Code by SF 2389, 2010
This Fact Sheet includes the changes to Iowa Code 335.5 and Iowa Code 414.3, both related to the process for adoption of a comprehensive plan.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning - The Zoning Ordinance
This Fact Sheet discusses the zoning ordinance as the primary mechanism for implementing the policies of the comprehensive plan. The two parts comprising the zoning ordinance include the zoning map and zoning text. Both documents together technically constitute the zoning ordinance and must be kept current at all times. Learn more about these two critical documents in this publication.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning - Spot Zoning
What is spot zoning? How does it occur? Learn more from this publication in the planing and zoning series.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning - Nonconforming Uses
A nonconforming use is generally defined as "a land use or structure that was legal when established, but does not conform to the restrictions of the current zoning ordinance." This creates a "nonconforming use" that can actually cover several situations, including nonconforming uses, lots, and structures. This fact sheet contains an overview of these issues.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning - Special Uses and Conditional Uses (Special Exceptions)
The Board of Adjustment has the power to "hear and decide special exceptions to the terms of the ordinance upon which the board is required to pass under such ordinance" (Iowa Code §§ 335.15 (counties) and 414.12 (cities)).

The terms "special use," "use exception" and "conditional use" are frequently found in zoning ordinances, and are discussed in this planning and zoning fact sheet.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning - Variances
A variance is an authorization to allow a landowner to do something that is generally forbidden by the ordinance. In order to be granted a variance, the applicant carries the burden of proving to the board that strict enforcement of the terms of the ordinance will inflict an unnecessary hardship on the landowner. This fact sheet discusses the primary tests the landowner must satisfy for a variance and guidelines from the Iowa courts.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning - Rules of Decorum for Audience at Board of Adjustment Hearings
Although the public hearing process is governed by certain rules, the Board of Adjustment strives to conduct hearings in a relaxed and informal manner. This fact sheet discusses the rules of decorum for the audience/participants at public hearings and the process that occurs during the hearing.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning - Conflicts of Interest
Acting as a public servant on an elected or appointed body requires loyalty to the public. Conflicts of interest arise when a public servant is in the position of deciding between public duty and private interests. This fact sheet discusses the two most common conflicts of interest and general guidance from the Iowa Supreme Court.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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Planning and Zoning - A Pre-hearing Ethics Checklist
Elected officials, planning commissioners and board of adjustment members should review the attached list in advance of hearing every application brought by a landowner to judge whether a situation might be present that would prevent them from taking part in the case. Should you recuse yourself from the proceedings? Follow this checklist to find out.

Planning and Zoning workshops are presented throughout the state of Iowa by Community and Economic Development Extension and Outreach’s Local Governments team. Information on these workshops and other programs can be found at: www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/programs-and-services
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