General plan (also referred to as a comprehensive or master plan) is a broad, long-term plan made by cities and other governments to organize development and community initiatives. General plans have been used by cities in the United States for most of the twentieth century, and they have become so essential to city planning that some states give incentives or require cities to have a general plan. General plans can cover a wide range of issues including the development of industry, city design, population growth, noise, and sustainability. The nature of a general plan depends on the particular city. Some cities create general plans as a set of guidelines and goals that city planners should strive to achieve through zoning laws, investment, and other tools. Other cities in states like California must follow the general plan and update the general plan as situations change. In these cities, the general plan serves as a required set of plans that ensures different areas of strategy and development can be balanced with one another. For an example of a city general plan, click here.
[Last updated in February of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]