In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Nelson County community leaders recognized the importance of planned and coordinated land use management and initiated efforts "to secure the maximum economical, physical, and social welfare for the Cities and County and their citizens through the thoughtful and planned use and development of land, buildings, thoroughfares, and public utilities." On April 28, 1970, Nelson County Fiscal Court and the Cities of Bardstown, Bloomfield, Fairfield, and New Haven entered into an "Agreement Establishing a Joint City-County Planning Unit, A Joint City-County Planning Commission of Nelson County and the Bardstown, Bloomfield, Fairfield, and New Haven Boards of Adjustment." The Planning Commission included 11 members - 5 appointed by the Judge/Executive and Nelson County Fiscal Court, 3 appointed by Bardstown Mayor and City Council, and 1 appointed by Fairfield Mayor and City Commission. The first countywide Planning Commissioners were:
- City of Bardstown: Dinwiddie Mathis, John Allen Geoghegan, and Col. W.R. Shephard
- Nelson County: Thomas Bullock, Jr., William O'Daniel, John Prewitt, Carl Reinle, and W.H. Brown
- City of Bloomfield: Astor Akers
- City of New Haven: George C. Barry
- City of Fairfield: Charles V. Cornell
The first Bardstown and Nelson County Boards of Adjustment each included 5 members, and the first Bloomfield, Fairfield, and New Haven Boards of Adjustment each included 3 members.
In 1974, the Planning Commission and the legislative bodies established the first countywide zoning and subdivision regulations. In June 1974, a countywide zoning map was adopted and divided the municipalities and unincorporated areas of Nelson County into 15 zoning districts - 1 agriculture, 7 residential, 1 professional, four commercial, and 2 industrial - and an historic overlay zoning district. Zoning regulations were enacted and set forth descriptive standards for the use, placement, spacing, and size of land and buildings. In November 1974, the Subdivision Regulations were enacted to guide the subdivision of land and the placement and construction of improvements and infrastructure for proposed subdivisions.
Nelson County 2020: A Comprehensive Plan was originally adopted in 1996. The Planning Commission amended the Comprehensive Plan in January 2004 to establish the Hunters Village in order to provide limited commercial uses in a compact area around the new hospital site and to reduce the Urban Historic Downtown District in order to protect downtown Bardstown's historic residential neighborhoods. The current Zoning Regulations for All of Nelson County were updated in February 2000. The Zoning Regulations and Zoning Map include 21 zoning districts - 1 agriculture, 8 residential, 1 professional, 5 commercial, 1 light industrial/commercial, and 3 industrial - and an historic overlay zoning district. The current Subdivision Regulations for All of Nelson County were updated in May 1995.
Today the Planning Commission and the legislative bodies continue to establish and implement innovative and sustainable development principles, such as promoting compact development, protecting farmland and environmentally sensitive areas, preserving historic and cultural resources, promoting local commercial and industrial areas, and facilitating efficient transportation network.