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Alabama Land Use Planning (1-AL-a)

Information current as of 2018
In Alabama, a developer may need approval from the municipal planning commission or regional planning commission to construct a project. Ala. Code § 11-85-7. No “public building or other public structure and public utility, whether publicly or privately owned or operated, [may] be constructed or authorized…until the location, character, and extent” of the project “has been submitted to and approved by” the municipal planning commission. Ala. Code § 11-52-11. A "public utility" is defined as "any plant, property, or facility for the generation, transmission or distribution, sale or furnishing to or for the public of electricity for light, heat, or power, or other uses, including any conduits, ducts, or other devices, materials, apparatus, or property for containing, holding, or carrying conductors used or to be used for the transmission of electricity for light, heat, or power, or other uses. Ala. Code § 37-4-1(7)(a).


If the project crosses multiple municipalities, the developer must submit project plans to the regional planning commission and obtain regional planning commission approval regarding those portions of the project not under municipal planning commission jurisdiction. Ala. Code § 11-85-7. Municipal planning commissions and regional planning commissions regulate building and construction projects pursuant to Alabama – Ala. Code §§ 45 et seq., Local Laws; Alabama – Ala. Code §§ 11 et seq., Counties and Municipal Corporations.


Land Use Planning Process

1-AL-a.1 – Review Local Zoning Laws

A developer should review applicable local zoning laws to ensure that the proposed project complies with county rules and regulations. For a complete list of municipal laws by county, see: Alabama – Ala. Code §§ 45 et seq., Local Laws.


1-AL-a.2 – Review Master Municipal Plans

A developer should review the applicable master municipal plan outlining the municipal planning commission’s recommendations for development. Ala. Code § 11-52-8. Master municipal plans guide the coordinated, adjusted, and harmonious development of the municipality best promoting health, safety, and efficiency in the development process. Ala. Code § 11-52-9.

A master municipal plan includes the general location, character and extent of the following:

  • Streets, viaducts, subways, bridges, waterways, waterfronts, boulevards, parkways, playgrounds, squares, parks, aviation fields and other public ways;
  • Grounds and open spaces;
  • Public buildings and other public property;
  • Public utilities and terminals, whether privately owned or operated for water, light, sanitation, transportation, communication, power, and other purposes;
  • Removal, relocation, widening, narrowing, vacating, abandonment, change of use, or extension of public ways, grounds, open spaces, building, military installations, property, utilities, or terminals; and
  • A zoning plan for the control of the height, area, bulk, location, and use of buildings and premises.

Ala. Code § 11-52-8.

1-AL-a.3 – Is the Project Located Outside of Municipal Planning Commission Jurisdiction?

If a proposed project crosses land outside of a municipal planning commission’s jurisdiction, the developer should proceed to 8-AL-a.13 to initiate the regional planning commission review process. Ala. Code § 11-85-7.

1-AL-a.4 to 1-AL-a.6 – Proposed Project Plans

A developer must submit proposed project plans to the municipal planning commission for review. Upon receipt of project plans, the municipal planning commission reviews project plans for technical and administrative completeness. Ala. Code § 11-52-6.

1-AL-a.7 to 1-AL-a.11 – Review Project Plans for Approval

The municipal planning commission reviews project plans for approval. In determining whether to approve a project, the municipal planning commission reviews proposed project plans for compliance with local zoning laws and the master municipal plan. Ala. Code § 11-52-6. If the municipal planning commission fails to make a decision on the proposed project plan submission within 60 days, then the proposed project plan is approved. Ala. Code § 11-52-11. If the municipal planning commission approves the project, then the developer may proceed with construction in compliance with all local and state laws.

If the municipal planning commission does not approve the project, then the municipal planning commission must communicate its reasoning to the municipal council, or applicable local governing body. Ala. Code § 11-52-11. The municipal council, or other applicable local governing body, reviews the municipal planning commission’s decision and votes on whether to uphold or overrule the municipal planning commission decision. Ala. Code § 11-52-11.

1-AL-a.12 – Appeal Decision to Board of Adjustment (Optional)

Any person aggrieved by a municipal planning commission, or municipal council decision may appeal the decision to the board of adjustment. Ala. Code § 11-52-80.


1-AL-a.13 – Review Applicable Master Regional Plans

The developer should review applicable master regional plans outlining the regional planning commission’s recommendation for the physical development of the region. Ala. Code § 11-85-4. Master regional plans guide the harmonious development of the region, public improvements, and utilities impacting multiple municipalities to best promote health, safety, and efficiency in the development process. Ala. Code § 11-85-4. A master regional plan may include the general location, extent, and character of the following:

  • Streets, parks and other public ways;
  • Grounds and open spaces;
  • Public buildings and properties;
  • Public utilities, whether publicly or privately owned or operated;
  • Forests, agricultural, and open development areas; and
  • A zoning plan.

Ala. Code § 11-85-4.

1-AL-a.14 to 1-AL-a.16 – Proposed Project Plans

The developer must submit proposed project plans to the regional planning commission for review. The regional planning commission reviews the proposed project plans for technical and administrative completeness.

1-AL-a.16 to 1-AL-a.17 – Review Proposed Plan for Approval

If the proposed project plans are complete, the regional planning commission reviews the proposed project plans for approval. Ala. Code § 11-85-4.

1-AL-a.18 to 1-AL-a.19 – Does the Regional Planning Commission Approve the Project?

If the regional planning commission approves the proposed project, then the developer may proceed with the project in compliance with all applicable state and local laws.

1-AL-a.20 – Appeal Decision to Municipal Council (Optional)

Any person may appeal a regional planning commission decision to the municipal council, or applicable local governing authority. The municipal council may uphold or overrule the regional planning commission decision by vote. Ala. Code § 11-85-7.


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