Columbia & Richland County, SC
Comprehensive Plan Updates

In central South Carolina, there is a county and there is a capital city within that county. Each had its own ideas. Each had its own plans. In 2015, however, the fast growth of the area meant that these two entities—the City of Columbia and the surrounding Richland County—would need to come together to shape a shared future. That’s just what they did. The result was a joint effort known as Plan Together, which resulted in two unique plans, both featuring unifying goals and policies. The Planning NEXT team was part of that monumental yet cooperative effort, taking the lead on process branding and public engagement while collaborating with our committed partners, Clarion and McBride Dale Clarion. This involvement advanced a shared community engagement effort by the two jurisdictions to gather public input that will shape growth in the City and County for years to come.

Plan Together Logo

City-County Cooperation

With help from Planning NEXT, the two jurisdictions branded the process “Plan Together” and launched a website to spread the word and track progress of both plans ( The team coordinated an awareness-building campaign including traditional print media, social media and word-of-mouth outreach.

Process / City of Columbia

Columbia’s program focused on a three-day workshop in which over 200 people worked in small groups to help shape the plan’s framework. This input was supplemented with stakeholder interviews, a public open house, and an online comment period. Planning NEXT helped to distill public input into a Vision statement and a series of values that serve as the Plan’s foundation.

Process / Richland County

Richland County’s community engagement program involved three rounds of workshops held at locations throughout the county. Each round built upon the previous: Community Conversations gathered broad input, Choices Workshops gathered feedback on preliminary recommendations, and Open Houses presented the draft policies for validation and prioritization.

Planning NEXT helped the Clarion team package the plan into an attractive and user-friendly online document.

View the Plan Columbia Land Use Plan

from the outset

City undertakes complete zoning rewrite.

For the City of Columbia, the effort was also an unprecedented opportunity to directly connect a plan with development regulations to implement that plan. The City committed to following its Comprehensive Plan update with a thorough rewriting of its zoning and land development ordinances, the first such regulatory update in nearly 50 years.

citizen praise for the process

“I want to commend you for the excellent process put in place over the course of a year+. At every step, the public has been asked to participate and advised on the timelines. Activities and progress have been transparent. No resident of Richland County should have grounds for complaining about the end result. You can be very proud of your diligent work and in your strong communications to the public.”