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Historic Preservation Planning for Local Communities

A Typical Planning Process

Step 9. What Actions Will We Take to Implement Our Plan?

Once the plan is completed and distributed, implementation Ė or putting the plan to work Ė is the major activity. Implementation means that a goal, objective, or task is carried out. In other words, implementation is action.

The plan does no one any good if it sits gathering dust on a shelf. An organization or individual needs to take responsibility for making sure action is taken to achieve the planís goals. Ideally, the plan is implemented by using a combination of the following:

  • Legal tools, including ordinances, standards, guidelines, procedures Ė planning, zoning, subdivision, historic districts, historic designation, design review, etc.

  • Government programs and expenditures, such as the preservation program, preservation commission, staff, budgets.

  • Financial and other incentives, such as investment tax credits, historic property tax reduction, revolving loan programs, purchase/transfer of development rights, low-interest loans, grants, and easements.

  • Property owner stewardship actions.

  • Community volunteers.

Plan Implementation Tips

The following useful tips for implementing your preservation plan are excerpted from the article, "A Primer on the Politics of Plan Implementation" by Bernie Jones (Planning Commissioners Journal, Issue 12, Fall 1993, p.5). While this short article is targeted toward a local planning commission audience, the advice it provides is relevant for other planning situations.

Think it through

Plan adoption and implementation need to be seen not as after-the-planning, optional activities for someone else, but as integral parts of the planning process for those who drafted the plan.

Winning support for the plan from public officials needs to be seen as a community relations task. For example, the following series of activities can be effective:

  • Discuss the plan with any willing public official informally before the formal plan adoption hearing.
  • Formally request a city council (or county commission) public hearing and approval for the plan.
  • Rally supporters once the public hearing is set.
  • Let supporters know the rules and procedures for hearings.
  • Carefully organize testimony at the public hearing.
  • media coverage of the public hearing.
  • Stage hoopla for public hearings (e.g., caravan, rally, etc.).
  • Celebrate the councilís formal adoption of the plan.

Strategize results

Plan adoption does not guarantee implementation. To ensure that your plan is implemented, it makes sense to:

  • Identify who will take responsibility for overseeing the planís implementation.
  • Develop priorities for plan implementation. Here are several strategies:
    • Early quick victories: Start with actions that are non-controversial, are quickly adopted, boost morale, establish momentum, build a track record.
    • Importance: Start with the planís most important recommendation.
    • Linchpin: Start with recommendations that pave the way for others.
    • High profile: Start with actions that are very visible and draw attention to the plan.
    • Maximize implementers: Maximize the number of different partners actively addressing at least one recommendation.
    • Multiple fronts: Simultaneously address at least one recommendation from each of the planís major sections.

  • Prepare an annual action agenda of recommendations you hope to see implemented that year.
  • Bite off a manageable chunk of the plan to work on.

Publicize results

Prepare an annual status report of whatís been done. Publicize and celebrate.

Do an update of the plan in a few years. Every plan eventually becomes outdated. By doing an annual action agenda and status report, you will be well on your way toward the preparation of an updated plan.

Plan Implementation Partners

The local preservation program and commission are likely to be the primary implementers of the local preservation plan. The preservation plan can provide guidance and direction on program and commission annual planning. It also can provide a framework for linking all of the communityís preservation activity into a coherent, integrated effort.

In most communities, however, there is far more preservation work than can be accomplished by any one organization. Partners are essential to carry out essential preservation activity. Major partners who could play significant roles in helping implement the local preservation plan could include:

  • Local government agencies dealing with planning and economic development, transportation, public works, parks and recreation, schools, environmental management, tourism, housing, etc.;
  • Civic organizations who are interested in maintaining the quality and character of their neighborhoods;
  • Local non-profit organizations concerned with community character, quality of life, history, and museums;
  • Professional organizations related to historic preservation, such as historians, archaeologists, landscape historians, planners, etc.; and
  • Special interest groups whose missions and goals are compatible with historic preservation and the preservation plan.

Integrating and Coordinating the Preservation Plan with Other Planning Efforts

Integration means incorporating historic/cultural resource and preservation values and goals into the policies, planning, programs, and activities of others. The local comprehensive or master plan is a key document that should incorporate preservation values and goals consistently throughout. This does not mean that other organizations, agencies, and groups must adopt the local preservation plan in its entirety.

The development and nurturing of ongoing relationships with others is essential to incorporating preservation into their efforts. Integration wonít happen if preservation planning is done is isolation from other interests and if the plan is merely distributed to others without further interaction.

Measuring Achievement of Preservation Plan Goals

An essential part of plan implementation is monitoring the ongoing progress toward goal achievement. Ask yourself:

  • Are we doing what needs to be done?
  • Are we doing it effectively?
  • What have we accomplished?

It is important to know what actions are being taken to implement the plan, who is carrying out activities, and what progress is being made. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to measure success or to evaluate the need for plan revision when the time comes.


Additional guidance can be found in the Sources of Additional Information and the PLANNING COMPANION — just click on the menu links to the left.

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