In 1959, Richland County commissioners saw the need for a regional planning agency that could address issues across political and jurisdictional boundaries. To respond to this need, Mansfield’s mayor and city council, along with the board of commissioners, adopted a resolution of cooperation. That resolution created the Richland County Regional Planning Commission, which would handle county-wide issues ranging from infrastructure to zoning. The commission soon found more responsibility, when in 1965, Mansfield’s population exceeded 50,000 with the addition of its annexations to the 1960 census count. This classified Mansfield as an urbanized area, which required the city to meet transportation requirements outlined by the Federal Bureau of Public Roads.
With new federal standards to be upheld by the city, the responsibility of meeting federal planning requirements was given to the RCRPC. In response, the RCRPC staff created a Prospectus and a Work Program to guide future research. At this time, the state of Ohio also designated a separate coordinating committee, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, to provide oversight for RCRPC’s projects. As the commission’s responsibilities grew, the need for a long term comprehensive plan became increasingly apparent. In 1971, with the assistance of local, state, and federal funding, RCRPC began the drafting process. The plan was adopted, along with the Richland County Transportation Plan and the Transportation Improvement Plan, in 1975. In 1979, the Metropolitan Planning Organization added transportation management to the list of the commission’s responsibilities.
In 1998, the Richland County Commissioners Office, in coordination with the RCRPC, commissioned the drafting of a report on farm conditions within the county’s borders. The effort began in early 1999 with the establishment of the Richland County Farmland Preservation Task Force, a research group whose membership included county officials and interested citizens alike. The resulting document, Farmland Preservation Plan for Richland County, provided a summary of farm conditions and a recommendation to update the planning commission’s 1975 comprehensive plan. The resulting 2035 Comprehensive Plan, finalized in 2006, continues to guide county improvement efforts to this day.