Our Planning Commission has a vacancy, now what?

The correct way to address a vacancy of a position on the board is through the bylaws.

Gavel resting on tabletop.
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The correct way to address a vacancy of a position on a planning commission is through the bylaws. Many questions about parliamentary procedure are directed to Michigan State University Extension on a regular basis. Sometimes the answers are found directly from Henry Martyn Robert’s “Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 12th ed.,” but other times they are found in state and local laws or policies.

For example, a question from a Michigan planning commission member was, “if the chair of our planning commission resigns from their position completely, including their planning commission membership, what is the correct method of replacement? I thought it was outlined in our bylaws, but it’s not.” 

MSU Extension offers sample bylaws and rules of procedures that can help Michigan planning commissions get on track to be in compliance with the Michigan Planning Enabling Act, which requires each planning commission to have bylaws. 

The Michigan Chapter of the American Planning Association explains that bylaws are a set of rules and instructions based on planning law that regulates specific actions of the planning commission. Bylaws are intended to answer the questions above and should, at a minimum, address the following:  

  • Identify the duties of the planning commission, the number of members, and length of their terms.
  • Set the procedure for election of officers (chairperson, vice-chairperson, secretary). 
  • Establish the meeting schedule and process for amendments thereto. 
  • Decide the order of business to be conducted within a given meeting. 
  • Outline the procedures for public hearings. 
  • Identify the process for members to declare conflicts of interest. 

It should be noted that each community must adjust the bylaws to fit its specific situation and include the appropriate legal citations for city, village, township or county. 

The MSU Extension Government and Community Vitality team offers training for elected and appointed officials for improved effectiveness in several areas, including various public policy issues and effects of government programs, regulation, incentives, strategies and more. By working together with local elected and appointed officials, and interested citizens, MSU Extension is able to provide education on critical local and state issues.

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