NOTE: This guide does not include regional school district information. Please see the website at the State Department of Education.
Regional planning is a collaborative effort by multiple governments and/or organizations to make long term plans for a designated area. It might cover several states (such as the former Tri-State Regional Planning Commission) or several municipalities (as done in Connecticut). While regional planning is a current topic of interest, it is not a new concept. In 1909 the first National Conference on City Planning was held in Washington, D.C. The Regional Planning Association of America, established 1923, had roots going back to 1918.
Connecticut's Office of Policy and Management (OPM) describes regional planning as "...a cooperative effort by a group of municipalities to plan jointly those elements of the regional community that affect them all and to cope with problems that cross municipal boundaries.".
The Office of Policy and Management (OPM) is charged with regional planning coordination as per CGS 16a-4a. OPM is the primary state agency that works with Regional Planning Organizations (RPOs), with the exception of transportation-related planning duties.
The OPM web site states: "Connecticut’s planning regions provide a geographic framework within which municipalities can jointly address common interests, and coordinate such interests with state plans and programs. State statutes authorize the secretary of the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) to designate or redesignate the boundaries of logical planning regions, whereas the member municipalities of each planning region are authorized under separate state statutes to establish a formal governance structure known as a regional council of governments (RCOG)."
Throughout many parts of the United States, county governments carry out the regional planning functions. Connecticut abolished county government in 1960.
The Planning Regions are the logical geographic areas defined and named by the State of Connecticut through the Office of Policy and Management (OPM).
The Regional Planning Organizations (RPOs) are the public agencies that two or more municipalities form (or later join) on a voluntary basis. Municipalities may chose to join the RPO. They are required to be within the geographic regions defined by OPM (there is a procedure to appeal this).
This idea can be confusing at first, as the terms and names are similar for regions and organizations. Often, but not always, the Regional Planning Organizations (RPOs) will use the name of the physical geographic region as part of the name of the RPO. Examples:
The Office of Policy and Management (OPM) states:
What are Planning Regions?
Planning Regions are regional groups of municipalities in Connecticut. Planning Regions were designated by the State of Connecticut after consultation with the state’s municipalities.
Each Planning Region is served by a COG. COGs are public agencies that bring together the Planning Regions’ Mayors and First Selectmen to discuss and address matters of shared interest. COGs are active in transportation planning and funding, economic development, emergency preparedness and management, information technology, land use planning, and municipal shared services.
COG meetings are open to the public, and public attendance and comment are welcome.
According to the FAQ (linked below):
"A county equivalent is a regional geography that the Census Bureau treats as statistically equivalent to a county in an area without traditional county government. The Census Bureau recognizes over 200 county equivalents nationwide."
The Federal Register (87 FR 34235) link below includes more detailed information on dates of implementation, use of legacy counties, background on Connecticut legacy counties, COGs' authorities, etc.
Here are some highlights of the announcement:
"06/06/2022 (HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that the United States Census Bureau has approved a request from the State of Connecticut to adopt the state’s nine planning regions as county-equivalent geographic units to collect, tabulate, and disseminate census data."
"Each planning region is represented by a council of government (COG), comprising the mayors and first selectmen of the member municipalities, which meet regularly to plan, coordinate, and act on matters of mutual interest. The Connecticut Office of Policy and Management (OPM) requested this change on behalf of the COGs in 2017."
"The Census Bureau will implement this change internally in 2022, with public data and geospatial products reflecting the change beginning near the end of the year. By 2024, all Census Bureau operations and publications, both internal and external, will use the nine new planning region boundaries, names, and codes, except for 2020 decennial census data publications and other datasets referencing the eight legacy counties as published before June 1, 2022.
Connecticut’s nine planning regions include:
Lower Connecticut River Valley
South Central Connecticut