The Polk County Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 1991, is a long-range document that helps guide the land development actions of the Polk County Board of County Commissioners through clearly stated goals, objectives and policies. These policies inform decision making and set the tone for growth and development. We are seeking public input to assist the team in the development of new goals, objectives and polices and to understand the community preferences and desires for the future of the county that leads to a prosperous Polk County for all residents.

Share Your Ideas

We have numerous ways to get involved in the comprehensive plan update process. Please consider sharing your thoughts on the future of the community by participating in one or more of the following engagement activities:





Simply put, a comprehensive plan is state-required document designed to guide the future actions of a jurisdiction. It presents a vision for a community’s future with long range goals, objectives, and policies. The Comprehensive Plan also serves to:

  • Help residents identify their vision for the future of the community
  • Coordinate local decision making
  • Provide guidance to landowners and developers

Required by Florida State Statutes, a comprehensive plan guides the long-term vision of the county and provides policies about growth and change. You can review the current Comprehensive Plan in the Document Library on this website or on the Municode website at

The county needs to update its Comprehensive Plan to include:

  • Allowing the community to re-evaluate and revise its vision for future growth
  • Empowering the jurisdiction to plan, rather than react, to new development
  • Providing an opportunity for the community to reexamine its current decision-making practices
  • Analyzing and updating level of service standards for public facilities and services
  • Identifying and addressing existing and projected opportunities facing the community
  • Regularly updating the Plan is required by Florida Statutes

The Comprehensive Plan is broken down into chapters (referred to as 'Elements') which each cover a different topic area. The Elements included within the current Polk County Comprehensive Plan are:

  • Future Land Use Element
  • Housing Element
  • Conservation Element
  • Economic Element
  • Property Rights Element
  • Infrastructure Element
  • Transportation Element
  • Recreation and Open Space Element
  • Public School Facilities Element
  • Intergovernmental Coordination Element
  • Capital Improvements Element

There are several ways to provide your input on the Comprehensive Plan. One method is to participate in one of the many engagement activities included on the website, such as the online survey, community idea wall, or by reaching out to us directly using the email provided on the bottom of this page. You can also plan on attending one or more of the town halls in the forthcoming town hall series, where the Project Team will host engagement activities designed to get your feedback on the Plan's direction and contents.

The update process is expected to take approximately 22 months, lasting between March 2024 and December 2025. For more details, please see the project timeline included on this page.

Future land use maps set the plan for the development of the county showing where certain density and intensity of development is allowed. You can view the existing future land use maps by clicking the Land Use and Zoning layer on the county’s GIS Viewer, here:

If you have questions or need information regarding the designations of specific parcels within Polk County, please contact for additional information.

The Future Land Use Map is included within the Comprehensive Plan and sets the generalized use of land, as well as the maximum densities and intensities for development. Zoning implements the Future Land Use Map designations through additional design standards that include building setbacks, maximum building heights, landscaping requirements, and open space requirements. Future Land Use and zoning work together to regulate the maximum intensity of the development as well overall site design.

About Polk - The Florida Legislature got it right in 1861 when it carved out a swath of scrub land that encompassed then-Eastern Hillsborough and Western Brevard counties. With a roll call of votes and the signing of a bill, Polk County was created – just months before the nation plunged into the Civil War. In those days, Polk’s population barely topped 3,000 residents. Officially dubbed Polk County Feb. 8, 1861, it became the state’s 39th county with the passage of Chapter 1201 of the 1861 Florida Statutes.

Early History - It’s largely thought the area’s first inhabitants were the Paleoindians, who had reached the northern parts of Florida about 10,000 B.C. Through curiosity, the Paleoindians made their way to the lower, interior areas of the state and along the Gulf Coast and began making permanent settlements between 9,000 and 8,500 B.C. when the glaciers began to melt.

European explorers made their Florida entrance in the 1500s, followed by various Native American tribes. Many scholars associate the county's Native American inhabitants with the Tocobaga people of Tampa Bay and their close relatives, the Mocosos, who lived east of the bay and along the Alafia and Hillsborough rivers. The Seminole Indians, which were descendants of Georgia’s Creek Indians, didn’t settle the areas in and around Polk until the 1700s. Polk quickly underwent a period of growth and change during the 19th century. The county’s first courthouse was constructed in 1867 in Bartow on land donated by cattle baron Jacob Summerlin. By the 1880s, the development of various industries, including citrus, cattle, and phosphate, and the arrival of the railroad caused a boom in land prices.

The population of the county doubled as a new wave of visitors and workers settled in Polk. Henry Plant’s South Florida Railway crossed the county and reached Tampa in 1884, linking central Florida with a massive transportation network. Locally produced goods were shipped by rail to national and international markets – Florida oranges could now reach major metropolitan areas like New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore in less than a week. Phosphate mining also benefited from improvements in the transportation infrastructure and quickly became one of Polk County’s largest industries.

Today, Polk County is a leading contributor to the state’s economy and politics. Citrus, cattle, agriculture, and the phosphate industry still play vital roles in the local economy, along with an increase in tourist revenue in recent years. The county’s location between both the Tampa and Orlando metropolitan areas has aided in the development and growth of the area. Residents and visitors alike are drawn to the unique character of the county’s numerous heritage sites and cultural venues, stunning natural landscapes, and many outdoor activities, making Polk the heart of central Florida.

Source: Polk County Historical Museum

Polk County has strong roots in the citrus industry, but it has been particularly affected by the decline in the state-wide production of citrus the last 20 years. It is estimated that Polk County lost between 30,000 to 40,000 acres of citrus acreage from 2003 to 2022. In that time, Polk County has emerged as a transportation and logistics hub within the I-4 corridor, due to its strategic location between Orlando and Tampa. Additionally, the county experienced a 10% growth in population from 2020 through 2023, placing further stress on existing infrastructure. The county’s population is anticipated to continue to grow through the comprehensive plan’s horizon year of 2050, which will require a balance of infrastructure and compatibility measure to maintain the quality of life for Polk County residents.

Polk County’s first Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1979 with a new one adopted in 1991 in response to the 1985 Growth Management Act. A revised Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1992 after negations with the State to ensure compliance with state laws and has been amended every year since including map and policy amendments. The Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern Critical Area Resources Management Plan (CARMP) was adopted in 1994 after four (4) years of negotiations with the state.