Building successful communities of every size

MSU Extension's Citizen Planner Program is a proven solution providing a unique platform for learning the fundamentals of planning and zoning.

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Most local land use decision-makers have no formal training. They learn on the job and may not have uniform skills, but courts still expect local officials to know the basics of all applicable laws. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension’s Citizen Planner Program is a proven solution to this issue, providing a unique platform for learning the fundamentals of planning and zoning. Citizen Planner offers about 18 hours of instruction led by MSU Extension educators over a 6-week period. Citizen Planner Online (CPO) is an online, self-paced version of the program that takes about 15 hours to complete. Since it was first offered in 1999, thousands of Michigan residents have graduated from the program. In 2021, 91 people participated in the real-time program via Zoom and 206 completed the self-paced CPO program.

Citizen Planner training covers a broad range of topics including planning, zoning, zoning board of appeals, citizen engagement, ethics, development patterns and effective board meetings. Lectures and activities set in the fictitious town of Spartyville offer students an opportunity to work through nuanced legal principles around planning and zoning. These interactive planning and zoning scenarios help participants apply what they’ve learned and build confidence.

In 2021, nine Citizen Planner graduates went on to become Master Citizen Planners (MCP), which is recognized around the state as a sign of excellence. To obtain the MCP credential a person must graduate from the Citizen Planner course, pass an exam, and complete a 20-minute capstone project presentation. Each year, MCPs are required to complete 6 hours of continuing education to retain the MCP credential.

MSU Extension’s land use programs engage participants in learning best practices in planning, community development, zoning, placemaking, design, land division, public engagement, environmental protection and sustainability. The knowledge and skills participants gain from MSU Extension land use programs help them build stronger civic infrastructure and successful communities of every size.

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