State Requirements for Planning in Utah

March 10th, 2018


Planning for the future of the community is essential to maintaining its quality of life. A current general plan and ordinances will allow the community to protect property rights while steering growth and providing an adequate level of service for residents and business owners.



Municipalities in Utah are required to maintain a current general plan (UCA 10-9a-401).  This plan needs to clearly articulate the existing and desired conditions of the community as well as future land use and transportation corridors.  It serves as the legal basis for all land use regulation (i.e. zoning, subdivision, annexation). (10-9a-405).

  • Land use and future land use map (10-9a-401)
  • Transportation element and transportation map (10-9a-403(2)(a))
  • Moderate income housing element (for “cities” +5,000 population) (10-9a-403(2)(a)(iii))
  • All public infrastructure investments need to first be justified in the plan (10-9a-406)



The role of a future land use plan is to describe the future intent of an area. The role of a zoning ordinance is to affect the development rights associated with different parcels. Doing this provides residents and developers a reasonable expectation of their rights, while providing the city administrative flexibility in transitional areas.  However, inconsistency in planning and zoning will preclude the city from enforcing either designation.

  • Establishes planning commission (10-9a-301(1)(a))
  • Creates an appeal authority (10-9a-701)
  • Residential facilities for elderly/persons with disabilities (10-9a-516)
  • Permits compliant manufactured homes (10-9a-514)
  • Addresses cell towers (can’t prohibit “antennas”) (10-9a-515)
  • Reestablish non-conforming structure after a calamity (10-9a-511)
  • Permits charter schools (10-9a-305)
  • Permits adult-oriented businesses (need to describe where/how)
  • Reference to the official zoning map



Before a community can make any effort to expand their territory by adding property that is contiguous with their border and is not already incorporated, they need to first articulate their intention in writing. The process of conducting an annexation is not simple, and the LtGovernor’s Office should be consulted early. An  annexation policy plan should include (10-2-401.5(4)) the following:

  • Map of the expansion area
  • Describe the character of the community
  • Analyze the need for services
  • Report on how the services will be financed
  • Planning Commission approval



If the City doesn’t have an ordinance addressing subdivisions, it must operate under the state law (10-9a-601). According to the ULCT, if there is ever a lawsuit on a subdivision issue, and there always is, the legal “standard of review” is how the local ordinance is administered, not on the content of the ordinance.

  • Procedures for submission / approval procedure
  • Outline minimum requirements for the plats (format)
  • Define agricultural exemptions
  • City can require property taxes to be paid first
  • Fee schedule



If it’s aligned with the goals of the general plan, a community’s capital improvement program can be seen as its investment strategy. It consists of a prioritized list of projects like roads, buildings, parks, and utility infrastructure. It provides direct support to the community’s budget process. Most communities have plans that organize projects into 1-, 2-to-5, and 10-year priorities. These plans are often prerequisites for funding from sources (i.e. CIB).


A pdf of the above information is available here.