Promises and challenges of regional and integrated land-use planning

Through interviews and review of policies and other planning documents, we are investigating the promises and challenges of regional planning in Massachusetts that is integrative. Regional integrated land-use planning involves finding ways to distribute different uses across a landscape in a way that balances and finds synergies among multiple goals, such as economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Many, but not all, land use related decision making powers rest with cities and towns.  At the municipal level, master (or comprehensive) plans seek to achieve integration – but only within a particular municipality.

However, municipalities often realize that they cannot solve their problems alone.  They must coordinate with their neighbors, for example, to manage flood, drought, and other risks, manage ecosystems, and protect open space.

Twelve regional planning agencies in Massachusetts support local planning and deal with issues and needs that cross city, town, county and state boundaries. They help municipalities pool resources for managing solid waste, water and wastewater systems, housing, transportation, economic development and other issues that cross municipal and county boundaries.

Watershed-based collaborations have also been established to address, for example, threats from development, protecting open space, and preparing for climate change.

Regional land-use planning to achieve ambitious goals for sustainability, equity, and climate resilience are a challenge in Massachusetts. 


Next Steps

We will be exploring with stakeholders in the Connecticut River Watershed a fundamental question: What does regional integrated land use to achieve sustainability and climate resilience look like?

We are working to set-up a forum to discuss this question and innovative frameworks that can support regional integrated land-use planning, build a collective sense of importance of equitable land use to achieve just and equitable sustainability and climate resilience in the region, learn about opportunities for addressing challenges, and identify the ways that sectors, such as energy generation, food and agriculture, open space and forests, housing, transportation, etc. can compete for land.

We anticipate holding a first meeting in the winter of 2023.