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Basic Info


NOTE: Before you begin the application process, you must inquire with the Office of Planning at regarding your historic planning related performance status and prerequisites by April 15th

What is the PlanFirst program?

PlanFirst is DCA’s program to recognize and reward communities that clearly demonstrate an established pattern of successfully implementing their Local Comprehensive Plan.  Any size community is encouraged to apply, provided it has a history of public involvement with development of the plan, active engagement in plan implementation, and proven progress with achieving the community’s stated vision or goals.  PlanFirst designation is awarded to local governments on an individual basis.  DCA encourages joint local planning; however, each government is responsible for achieving the activities in its community-specific work program.  Multiple governments within a county that plan jointly must apply for PlanFirst separately. 

Applications for the 2025-2027 PlanFirst Designation are now available to view

Program Guidelines

An eligible community must meet the following prerequisites:

  1. be a Qualified Local Government;
  2. have an approved and adopted Service Delivery Strategy;
  3. be current on all required reports * to DCA, including Government Management Indicators and the Report of Local Government Finances; and
  4. have met the Minimum Performance Standards for their region as set by their regional commission.

An applicant government will be evaluated against four broad performance measures of community vision and goals, community leadership, community participation in the development of the comprehensive plan, and successful community implementation of that plan. The application is built on these 4 criteria, and is scored accordingly, on a 0-5 scale with the exception of the last question that can receive a maximum of 10 points.  The community must have given careful thought to development of their community vision or goals as the basis for their community work program. This work program must consist primarily of measurable, specific action items that will help realize their hoped for future.

Once an application is received, it will be reviewed by a multi-agency panel made up of DCA, other State agencies, and organizations such as ACCG, GMA and the GA Planning Association. Those communities that show promise in meeting these criteria will receive a site visit from the panel and DCA staff. The PlanFirst Program is about good community planning, and this site visit is the community’s chance to make their case for successful local planning and implementation.

Participation in the PlanFirst program lasts for three calendar years. Designated communities are encouraged to reapply to renew their designation for an additional three-year period.

PlanFirst designation brings significant recognition and rewards, including eligibility* for the package of incentives listed below:

  • Statewide recognition as being an exemplary, PlanFirst, community;
  • The ability to apply for CDBG annually during the designation period;
  • Bonus points on DCA programs such as the Redevelopment Fund or Employment Incentive Program or the Downtown Revolving Loan Fund;
  • Hands-on assistance from DCA staff to help implement community work program activities, and
  • Other incentives that are under consideration and will be announced as they are approved.

*Governments designated as PlanFirst are required to maintain their Service Delivery Strategies in order to take advantage of the benefits from the State offered as PlanFirst incentives.

Communities without their Qualified Local Government (QLG) status or an approved and adopted Service Delivery Strategy (SDS) are ineligible to apply for PlanFirst.  Loss of SDS or QLG during the PlanFirst designation period for more than 3 months will result in a loss of PlanFirst incentives for the duration of the loss.  Determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis.

PlanFirst Community Responsibilities are:

  • To continue to strive for planning excellence in all areas of comprehensive plan development and implementation.
  • Participate in the PlanFirst program by supporting a staff member’s participation as a PlanFirst Reviewer, for application review as well as on-site visits to other applicants (if applicable).
  • When called upon, to participate as a presenter at a Community Planning Institute event.
  • Submit a minimum of one plan implementation success story annually to DCA.
  • Maintain eligibility as a qualified local government (QLG) by having an approved Comprehensive Plan and Service Delivery Strategy and must be current on all required reporting to DCA.  In the event of loss of QLG by a PlanFirst community, the incentives awarded by designation will be suspended until QLG is restored.
  • Promulgate the comprehensive plan and foster local access to the plan by making it generally available through the community’s website.