The Canadian Institute of Planners, which is the national certification body for the planning profession in Canada, defines Planning as "the scientific, aesthetic, and orderly disposition of land, resources, facilities and services with a view to securing the physical, economic and social efficiency, health and well-being of urban and rural communities."

Within this context, the Town of Amherst Planning and Development Department has three main roles:

The first role is to 'Plan for the future'

The goal here is to ensure that the Town develops in an orderly fashion.

Lands are set aside or 'zoned' for certain land uses. Information about this can be found in the following list:

Within each zone there are also a number of regulations such as parking requirements, minimum property sizes and permitted locations for buildings on each property. Such regulations ensure that buildings and uses on one property do not negatively impact an adjacent property.

In planning for the future we also strive to make efficient use of the Town's built infrastructure (streets, water and sewer lines) in order to avoid wasting the towns limited resources. Our Municipal Planning Strategy also contains policies on environmental protection, acquisition of recreation lands, retention of heritage buildings and revitalization of our downtown business district, among others.

In order to properly carry out this function our staff undertake various studies, conduct research and liaise with other municipalities in the Maritimes and various other level of government in order to develop policies that will improve the quality of the built environment of the Town.

The Second role could best be defined as 'bylaw enforcement

This is where we ensure that all development activity within the Town is in compliance with the above policies and regulations. In order to do so we, like all other municipal units in Nova Scotia, require a development permit prior to construction taking place on any property within town. In the vast majority of cases the development does conform to the relevant regulations and the permit is issued. In the rare cases when the proposed development does not conform, we work with the applicant to make a few minor changes to the development to bring it in conformance. It is extremely rare when a proposed development cannot be permitted.

The third role is to support persons interested in developing property within Town

When a developer expresses interest in developing a property in town planning staff will generally meet the developer to explain our development regulations so they can plan their development accordingly. In some circumstances we also offer to work with a developer to create a 'site plan' for their property which has the greatest benefit to both the property owner and the town. Quite often town staff from various departments, usually Planning and Development, Community & Economic Development and Transportation & Public Works will work with a local developer to guide then through the development process, or work with a non-local developer to entice them to locate in our town. The goal is always to come to a mutual agreement that will offer the greatest benefit to both the property owner and the town.