What’s the Difference? Policies, Resolutions and Ordinances

Policy, ordinance or resolution?Some communities choose to pass a policy while others create a resolution. What’s the difference?


Livable or Complete Streets policies can fall into various types. Policies can be driven by the local city council and generally fall into two main categories, ordinances and resolutions.


Ordinances legally require transportation projects and city codes address the needs of all users. Often needing stronger support from the community and elected officials, ordinances are worth pursuing as they are enforceable by law and provide more direction for implementation than resolutions.


A Livable or Complete Streets resolution is a non-binding, official statement of support for community transportation projects and plans that take a livable streets approach, addressing the needs of all users. Though it is often a helpful first step toward adopting a Livable/Complete Streets ordinance, resolutions are often do not require action and are therefore, unenforceable.

City Policies

Livable/Complete Streets policies are often voted on by city councils to be adopted as official city policy. Longer and more detailed than resolutions or ordinances, city Livable Streets policies are not legally binding but tend to have a high amount of support from key community and political stakeholders, which pushes implementation.

Additional policies might also include city plans, design guidelines or other directives. Understanding how decisions are made in your town can help you determine which policy might be best for your community.

Source: http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/documents/cs-local-policy-workbook.pdf