Credit: FHI

Credit: FHI

Credit: EHHD

Credit: EHHD

Why should your land use commission
and other local officials promote healthy communities?

Town planning and zoning commissions and other land use managers have a significant impact on their communities in a number of ways, including community health. They guide development and influence how the community evolves. They can influence housing variety, business types and locations, available open spaces, and the connections among them.

Are homes, businesses, and open spaces mixed together or separate? Can you safely and easily travel among them in a variety of ways? 

These factors directly influence opportunities for physical activity and access to healthy food. By increasing those opportunities, land use managers help create a healthier environment and reduce major illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke among their residents. This improved quality of life allows healthier communities become more connected, desirable places to live.


Commission opportunities to promote healthy communities


Implement the Plan of
Conservation & Development

One basic responsibility of a planning commission is to review land development proposals for consistency with the community’s master plan or Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). That plan includes community goals and policies for: all modes of travel (including bicycles and pedestrians); the type and scale of new businesses; preservation of agricultural lands and open space, and for recreation. All of these elements of the POCD are essential to creating healthy communities.  


Engage the

Planning and Zoning Commission meetings are open to the public. They offer an opportunity for the community to gather and discuss how to plan for and regulate land use to offer healthy options, such as working towards a connected system of sidewalks and walking trails throughout the community. 



Manage the Features
of Land Development

The zoning regulations can include both requirements and incentives to developers to incorporate features such as open space, plazas, sidewalks, and bicycle access in their proposals, all of which create healthy options.


Credit: EHHD

Credit: EHHD

Overview Guide to Commission Roles and Responsibilities

There a number of existing resources that offer fundamental guidance on planning and zoning commission roles and responsibilities.
A few selected options can be found here: