Most local governments need to update their Master Plan

New legal requirements have added to the required content of a municipal master plans in Michigan. Thus a vast majority of master plans in Michigan need to be updated by amendment or preparing a whole new plan.

Virtually every Michigan local government master plan needs to be updated.

Statute requires local governments in Michigan to assess their current master plan every five years in order to decide if the plan needs to be updated.  A master plan is prepared by the municipality’s planning commission, and is a policy document outlining the community’s vision for the future.  It should be the basis for, or influence the community’s future, environmental protection, economic development, zoning and other regulatory ordinances.

The assessment of an existing master plan is done by the community’s planning commission.  Upon review of the master plan the planning commission might come to one of three conclusions:

  • The master plan, as written, is still current, meeting the needs of the community, and nothing needs to be done.
  • The master plan is no longer viable, needing major modifications.  The municipality should start the process to prepare a new master plan.
  • The master plan has parts which may need updating or work.  The municipality should start the process to make some specific amendments to the master plan.

MSU Extension has materials designed to assist a community in evaluating its current plan: Land Use Series: “Checklist #1H; The Five Year Plan Review.” December 23, 2010 ( found at web page 

However, as one goes through that checklist you find a number of new requirements that now have to be in a master plan.  That means for most local governments a plan rewrite or plan amendment is needed.

For example, beginning in December 2010, Michigan law now requires master plans to have some level of content about complete streets and discussion concerning public transit. (

Another example are master plans that do not have a section, or sections, that specifically spell out how the plan relates to that community’s zoning ordinance – the “zoning plan” chapter of a master plan.  This became a requirement for all master plans in 2008.

Finally, a master plan should include elements of an asset-based strategic economic development plan, and explanation how the local plan dovetails with that community’s regional economic strategy.  While this one is not required by law, economic development and planning for the global economy are necessary for Michigan’s revitalization, and is a new and growing priority for every local government in the state (

A few communities will have already added these elements to their master plan, but for a vast majority of local governments, it is likely the plan needs to be updated by amendment or preparing a whole new document. 

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