Why Pollinators Need to Be in Your Town Comprehensive Plan

Town comprehensive plans and pollinators have not traditionally gone together – but that is, happily, starting to change. Your town’s comprehensive plan is the basis for your zoning laws. It defines how land is used in your town and clarifies your town’s priorities. If your town intends to become pollinator-friendly, that intention needs to be incorporated into your comprehensive plan.

Planning for Pollinators

Many towns create a resolution stating their intent to use native plants and create pollinator-friendly spaces. This is a great first step as it can become a guiding force to direct future decisions. Unless the details are spelled out in the comprehensive plan, though, a lot can fall through the cracks.

Policies regarding landscaping, particularly of sidewalk strips, are one of the first things to consider. Nuisance laws are another. Definitions of terms like “weed,” “garden,” and “invasive” all need to be defined in such a way as to permit – and even encourage – native plants.

Planning and zoning can require developers to use native plants in their landscaping, including setting a target percentage of how much of the landscaping should be native plants (70% is ideal). Developers can also be required to maintain as much of the original habitat as possible. This needs to clearly include grasslands, as opposed to only forests or wetlands. Unless grasslands are specifically included, they are often – and mistakenly – considered to be without value, leading them to being dug up. This should apply to both residential and commercial properties.

Roadside policies can limit mowing and require native plants. Spraying of lawns to maintain a “green carpet” can be prohibited. Use of pesticides can be regulated and buffer zones can be implemented around registered pollinator gardens. Solar installations can also be required to include pollinator habitat.

Ask Your Planners and Engineers

Your town is likely working with professional planners and civil engineers to create and revise your comprehensive plan. Find out what knowledge and experience they have with native plants and pollinators. Be clear that landscapers and landscape architects familiar with traditional landscaping likely lack the necessary expertise for native plants. If your team is missing this knowledge base, insist they sub-contract with an expert in these areas so your town can enjoy all the benefits of being pollinator-friendly.

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash