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The aims of establishing and regulating the interrelationships of the people within their territorial boundaries, the relations of the people with the community as a whole and the transactions of the community with other political entities, gave rise to the creation of a county government. Counties have a board of elected officials accountable for all vital decisions. A planning department operated by paid employees of the county offers the task for county planning such as support for all features of the comprehensive plan and other planning commission activities.

In order for a county initiative to achieve its targeted aims, unity between local governments and between different levels of government must be present. County Initiatives In the United States Constitution, it states that the federal government does not have exclusively reserved powers (Coppa, 2000). In fact, there is power distribution accorded to fifty states, or to the populace. Accordingly, in the U. S. , local governments, whether townships, counties, or cities, are set up understate law and are consequently dependent on power by their states (Coppa, 2000).

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Furthermore, Coppa (2000) stated that powers vested upon territories differ from state to state. In several states in the U. S. , counties perform as somewhat agents or representatives of the state, their powers are restricted to running state governmental tasks at a regional level such as public roads, welfare, and so forth. In other bigger states, over and above performing as agents or representatives of the state, counties also has the power to function as local government units for unincorporated areas within their margins.

Such counties, particularly in Virginia and Montgomery, apply powers close to those of municipalities, such as zoning and land use powers (Platt, 1996). Both Fairfax and Montgomery County operate as units of local government for their populace. In several states, specifically in the northeastern part of United States, states have authorized civil townships, geographic and political sectors of counties, with the authority to make planning and zoning efforts. In such states, county governments have nominal or no power concerning land use.

As a result, in Pennsylvania, more than 2,567 separate towns and municipalities perform land use planning and zoning resulting to disjointed land regulation that restricts a regional approach (Hylton, 2003). On the contrary, in other states particularly in Maryland and Virginia, county governments have the authority to plan and zone. On the other hand, in Maryland, mainly counties and hardly any municipalities have the power to carry out land use planning and zoning.

Planning process in the county government is a challenging task for the reason that powers given are not mutual or joint within the executive branch and the structure of county government (Hoch, 2002). There must be reform measures addressing the problem on the disjointedness of powers causing the delay or failure on the implementation of proposals or plans for economic development. This paper intends to give details on the structure of county government, its planning commission, county initiatives, and reform measures. An Overview of Planning Commissions

The aim to facilitate planning more effectively and promptly, gave rise to the creation of planning commissions. Planning boards or planning commissions are citizen bodies allowed, either by way of state legislation or county charter, to create proposals to the county council on wide-ranging policy issues and to make actual decisions in particular sorts of development proposals (Hoch, 2002). The elected officials of the county select the commission members. Normally if the county governing body is not contented with a judgment of the planning board, there should be a majority vote to oust a decision of the planning board.

As early as 1900s, local governments started setting up planning commissions as part of a “good government” alliance in United States (Hoch, 2002). Incited by resident grievances regarding corruption in city governments, the alliance’s heads demand the detachment of politics from city government. This detachment of politics and government was to be fulfilled in part, for instance, by having the city or county council select a five- or seven-member planning commission consisting of reliable citizen volunteers, who would come up with proposals on planning and zoning guidelines that were beneficial to the city or country as a whole.

County Level Planning A planning commission composed of citizen volunteers selected by the designated board gives advice to the elected board. The planning board or commission is accountable for setting up public hearings on, and coming up with proposals to designated officials on, the comprehensive plan, the zoning regulation and other main planning documents (Hoch, 2002). The planning commission also has authority to reconsider and come up with assessments on development proposals.

A planning department operated by paid employees of the county offers the task for county planning such as support for all features of the comprehensive plan and other planning commission activities. Workers in other departments of the county, also work for the success of the comprehensive plan. This plan is an extensive and general statement concerning the future improvement of the county (Hoch, 2002). Usual aspects of a comprehensive plan consist of economic development, public infrastructure, land use, housing, and natural resources.

. In order for a county initiative to achieve its targeted aims, unity between local governments and between different levels of government must be present. Powers of County Level Planning in US States have made use of two different guiding principles concerning the definition and application powers of local governments: home rule and Dillon’s Rule (Mastran & Hanousek, 2001). In Home rule, local governments have the power to oversee and control those areas of responsibility that the state does not openly keep to itself.

Meanwhile, Dillon’s Rule limits the authority of local government to those particularly approved by the state in writing; those authority that are related to exclusively- established powers; and those authority that are important to running the government (Mastran & Hanousek, 2001). Whether a state approves powers to its local governments under home rule or Dillon’s Rule will essentially influence local governments’ capability to execute an extensive array of policies and programs, as well as those associated with land use and zoning.

Nowadays, many states, do consent partial home rule to local governments, although to changeable degrees, and in some occasions only to particular units of local government. However, for Fairfax and some other counties, Dillon’s Rule is in force, and this has particular implications for counties’ level of sovereignty to decide local tax rates and to work out rules and policies for land use and development (Mastran & Hanousek, 2001).

While the Virginia General Assembly has submitted legislation that permits localities to participate in land use planning and zoning within their authorities, the state maintains supreme power in areas wherein local governments have not taken up control. A particular example is the study made by the Virginia Transportation Research Council for the Virginia Department of Transportation last 2004.

The study asserted that while the power of the public to control land use in Virginia is in the hands of the local governments, as well as counties, in nearly all occasions, the state posses the authority for planning, construction, and preservation of road facilities (Miller et al. , 2004). Expectedly, this case can result to conflicts between county and state government, such as when the county wanted development and improvement in areas or parts where the state has not granted sufficient or satisfactory road facilities. Normally, county governments set up separate departments for planning within the structure of the government.

These departments handle different areas of responsibility or coming up with different plan policies such as “comprehensive plans,” wherein it encompasses ideas for the growth of the county for the next 20 to 25 years, along with objectives, aims, and policy statements (Hoch, 2002). Another proposal refers to “sub-area master plans”, wherein it presents plans into details leading to a more thorough guidelines for the real improvement of particular areas within the county, in harmony with the general vision and targets articulated in the comprehensive plan.

One more plan is the functional master plan that includes suggestions for such countywide undertakings such as parks and recreation, transportation, trails, public safety and historic resources. Another plan is the zoning ordinances and maps. This summarizes allowed land uses, height restrictions, densities and other requisites for improvement in various geographic areas of the county (Platt, 1996).

Then, there is also the subdivision rules, that guarantee that anytime a great parcel of land is subdivided for development, that the newly-created assets have adequate street lighting, utilities, storm water control, and so forth. Lastly, county planning also creates capital improvement programs, formed every 5 or 6 years and updated yearly, that illustrate sources of funds and priorities for investment projects such as schools, roads, and other public buildings, and water and sewer systems. The comprehensive plan is the foundation for all the other policies and regulations.

In several states, state laws entail that all planning regulations, such as zoning, are in harmony with the comprehensive plan (Platt, 1996). Therefore, while normally considered advisory documents, in practice comprehensive plans can take the force of law. Tax Limitations Consistent with the survey conducted by the National Association of Counties, the most important revenue source for counties countrywide is the property tax, which represents 30. 6% of general revenue funds for counties (National Association of Counties, 2003).

State allocation of sales taxes are normally the second most important revenue source for counties countrywide, comprising 14% of counties’ general funds. For majority of the states, income taxes are not an important source of revenue. Indeed, only half of states even consent to counties to require an income tax. Maryland is one of two states (the other county is Indiana) wherein income taxes give a reason for an important fraction of county general revenues (National Association of Counties, 2003). In Virginia, county government does not impose income taxes.

Since local designated officials want to prevent escalation or increase in property taxes (with the intention of not upsetting local voters), they desire to encourage or persuade land uses that produce more returns or revenues than those land uses demand in public expenditures for services. For instance, privately owned office buildings and factories give the county with considerable amount of property tax revenues, in addition to the salaries paid than can be taxed (that is, if the county has a personal income tax).

Such land uses do not necessitate very much expense for county-funded amenities and services. In contrast, apartment buildings suited for families having low to average income necessitate county expenditures for social services and for schools, and necessitate more in county spending than the county generates in property taxes from those buildings. This circumstance plays a part to “fiscal zoning” or zoning and other policies that support commercial and job generating development, while dispiriting moderate-income housing. Successful County Initiative

One example of a successful county initiative is the Licking County Children & Families First Council Partnerships for Success. The County Partnerships for Success initiative came into being under the headship of Governor Bob Taft, the Children First Cabinet Council, and the Ohio Family. With this initiative, Governor Taft dared state and local partners to harmonize the work for children around the vision of “enabling every child to succeed. ” Citizens all throughout the country assisted in recognizing a set of six commitments to the welfare and interests of the child.

The concerned workers make use of these commitments to work out policy and line up program labors, initiatives, and resources. Most outstandingly, the commitments function as a constant and persistent guide and gauge the progress of the county in enhancing the lives of Ohio’s children. The six commitments to child well-being includes hopeful parents and infants survive or thrive; infants and toddlers prosper; children are prepared for school; children and teenagers do well in school; youth prefer nourishing behaviors; and adolescents effectively transition into maturity.

Because of the good intention of the initiative, several agencies provide for the funding of the program. Firstly, Governor Taft has granted funding to strengthen the mission of the Ohio Family and Children First initiative to include state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and parents in reforming and synchronizing government services for families looking for assistance for their children. Moreover, the Ohio Department of Youth Services gives financial support and administrative services for the county initiative.

On the other hand, the Center for Learning Excellence at The Ohio State University offers the technical assistance to the counties concerned in the initiative. Unsuccessful County Initiative Many factors affect the success of a county initiative. The failure of an initiative may be because of insufficient funds, lack of support from other agencies, not so good intentions, and so forth. One example of a fruitless initiative is the marijuana initiative particularly implemented by the Clark County Election Department.

The Clark County Election Department declared that the marijuana initiative has fallen short of valid signatures in Clark County, resulting to a zero margin for failure in 13 other Nevada counties if it has to get on the November ballot. Nevertheless, supporters or followers of the initiative that would consent to adults to lawfully have up to an ounce of pot pronounce they are positive that, when the counting is done, they will have sufficient valid signatures in the remaining counties to convey the issue before voters statewide.

Conclusion/Recommendations Counties may have similar or different planning tools and procedures, embracing different strategies to coping up with urban growth. Therefore, growth and improvement has been more prompt and discrete in some counties compared to other underdeveloped counties. In spite of everything, all counties face the challenge of having restricted ability or power to endure the increasingly strong demands for urban growth that is evident particularly in the Washington metropolitan areas.

Moreover, because of the lack of regional synchronization and supervision from a regional land use authority, some counties plan for development in manners that are advantageous to local residents but disadvantageous to the region taken as a whole. Therefore, it is of great importance that there exists unity between local governments and between different levels of government References Coppa, F. J. (2000). County government: A guide to efficient and accountable government. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. Hoch, C. J. (2002). Making plans. Washington, DC: International City/County Management Association. Hylton, T. (2003).

Central Pennsylvania Magazine. Retrieved October 20, 2006, from www. saveourlandsaveourtowns. org/CentralPAMag303. html Mastran, S. & Hanousek, D. (2001). Virginia policies that contribute to sprawl: An agenda for change. Washington, DC: National Trust for Historic Preservation. Miller, J. , Howe, R. , Hartman, P. & Goswami, A. (2004). Final report: Options for improving the coordination of transportation and land use planning in Virginia. Charlottesville: Virginia Transportation Research Council. Platt, R. (1996). Land use and society: Geography, law and public policy. Washington, DC: Island Press. .