In 1968, Virginia was divided into planning districts based on the community of interest among its counties, cities and towns. A Planning District Commission is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth chartered under the Regional Cooperation Act by the local governments of each planning district. As such they are a creation of local government encouraged by the state. The Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions helps its members meet their responsibilities to local and state government and coordinates inter-PDC functions.
There are 21 PDCs in Virginia. They are made up of elected officials and citizens appointed to the Commission by member local governments. The Commission selects an Executive Director responsible for managing daily operations. Commission offices are located generally in a central location for the region as determined by the Commission charter. Meeting schedules vary, and meetings are open to the public. Persons needing additional information are encouraged to contact your local PDC .
The purpose of Planning District Commissions, as set out in the Code of Virginia, Section 15.2-4207, is
"...to encourage and facilitate local government cooperation and state-local cooperation in addressing on a regional basis problems of greater than local significance. The cooperation resulting from this chapter is intended to facilitate the recognition and analysis of regional opportunities and take account of regional influences in planning and implementing public policies and services.
The planning district commission shall also promote the orderly and efficient development of the physical, social and economic elements of the district by planning, and encouraging and assisting localities to plan, for the future."
Virginia's PDCs provide a variety of technical and program services to member local governments. They include grant application assistance, management services for program implementation, land use planning services and mapping. The merging of mapping and information services has created the field of geographic information systems, where PDC's often lead the way. Transportation planning is another role for PDCs, who may deal with highway development, ridesharing, airport planning, and specialized transit.
For the Commonwealth, PDCs serve as an accessible network that gives quick and complete statewide coverage. Each serves as the Affiliate State Data Center for the region. In this role they provide important information to businesses as well as citizens. PDCs are the regional contact for the Commonwealth Intergovernmental Review Process and provide input for a host of agencies and commissions.
The program work of PDCs has been meeting the needs of local and state government for the last 30 years. Within their region they may serve to build regional approaches to issues like economic development, solid waste management and legislative priorities. In other states, organizations like PDCs are known as regional councils, regional commissions, and councils of government.
One important duty of the PDC's is to create a strategic plan for their region of service. This plan is created in cooperation with local governments, businesses, citizen organizations, and other interested parties. The plan is intended to help promote the orderly and efficient develpoment of the PDC by stating goals and objectives, strategies to meet those goals, and mechanisms for measuring progress.
Other duties of the PDC's are:
- To conduct studies on issues and problems of regional significance;
- To identify and study potential opportunities for local cost savings and staffing efficiencies through coordinated local government efforts;
- To identify mechanisms for the coordination of state and local interests on a regional basis;
- To implement services upon request of member localities;
- To provide technical assistance to state government and member localities;
- To serve as a liason between localities and state agencies as requested;
- To review local government aid applications as required by applicable law;
- To conduct strategic planning for the region as required by applicable law;
- To develop regional functional area plans as deemed necessary by the commission or as requested by member localities;
- To assist state agencies, as requested, in the development of substate plans;
- To participate in a statewide geographic information system, the Virginia Geographic Information Network, as directed by the Department of Planning and Budget; and
- To collect and maintain demographic, economic, and other data, acting as a state data center affiliate in cooperation with the Virginia Employment Commission.