Planning commission is much more than zoning

Planning commissions have a large job that includes coordination, intergovernmental cooperation, master plan, zoning administration, infrastructure, land division, subdivision reviews and capital improvement planning all contribute to a master plan.

Many planning commission meetings focus on zoning issues and from time to time discussion on the master plan. If that is all that is being done, the community is not even touching the majority of what planning commissions are supposed to be doing.

The Michigan Planning Enabling Act charges local government planning commissions with doing much more. It may be helpful to review the fundamental duties and purposes of a planning commission. Each should get the same amount of attention as, for example, a zoning special use permit. Each of these duties are equally important as they are all part of the statutory mission.

  • Studies of existing and future conditions, surveys, probable growth (M.C.L. 125.3831, 125.3807, 125.3831(2)(a)). Often this is the Fact or data book part of the master plan. It often includes sections on economic development, social development, physical development and environment.
  • The duty to create the master plan for development, often projecting 20 years into the future focusing on land use, transportation, public transit, waterways, waterfront, sewer, water supply, utilities, recommendations for redevelopment, removal replacement, improvement public infrastructure, zoning plan and implementation of master plan goals (M.C.L. 125.3831, 125.3833, 125.3867).
  • Promotion of public interest and understanding of the master plan and promotion of the master plan. (M.C.L. 125.3851) This is often done by producing a flyer, summary or poster about the plan.
  • To create subplans (M.C.L. 125.3835).
  • Adoption of part, all of a county master plan (M.C.L. 125.3847).
  • Oversee the master plan, subplan, plan amendment or part of a plan adoption process (M.C.L. 125.3839 to 125.3845).
  • Cooperate with neighboring and area local governments (M.C.L. 125.3831(2)(b), 125.3831(3)).
  • Cooperate with state and federal governments (M.C.L. 125.3831(2)(c)).
  • Cooperate with other agencies of its government (M.C.L. 125.3831(2)(c)).
  • If it is a county planning commission: Coordinating Agency for all planning in the county (intergovernmental coordination). At this time this function is more important than ever with the New Economy and the need for local government to perform its role to bring Michigan back to economic prosperity. If it is a municipal planning commission: participation in the county or larger regional planning effort (M.C.L. 125.3837).
  • Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for capital expenditures of the government (M.C.L. 125.3865). The local legislative body may assign this function to another, or retain final approval of the CIP.
  • Recommendation of CIP elements regardless who does the CIP (M.C.L. 125.3867).
  • Infrastructure Reviews of proposed physical improvements in the government (M.C.L. 125.3861).
  • Subdivision (site-condo) reviews as well as development of a land division / subdivision / site-condo ordinance (M.C.L. 125.3871).
  • Prepare Annual report (M.C.L. 125.3819(2)).
  • Prepare and submit budget for the next year (M.C.L. 125.3823(2)).
  • Prepare Annual work program, which is a part of annual report and budget. M.C.L. 125.3823 & 125.3819(2)).
  • Keep public records of its meetings and other documents, all complying with the Freedom of Information Act (M.C.L. 125.3819).
  • Hold at least four meetings a year, all meetings complying with Open Meeting Act (M.C.L. 125.3821).
  • Respond to county request for copy of zoning (and updates as they happen) by the county planning commission (M.C.L. 125.3869).

The Michigan Planning Enabling Act and the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act also provides planning commissions with certain powers to perform these duties. They are:

  • Hire a planning director and/or zoning administrator (if in budget, if delegated to the commission) (M.C.L. 125.3825).
  • Contract for services (if in budget, if delegated to the commission) (M.C.L. 125.3825).
  • Apply for, receive, grants (if okay with legislative body) (M.C.L. 125.3823(3)).
  • Can act as zoning board (M.C.L. 125.3883. See also M.C.L. 125.3101 et seq.).
  • Reviews city, village, township, county (within and adjacent) plans. (M.C.L. 125.3841(3)).
  • If a county planning commission: Reviews township zoning (M.C.L. 125.3101 et seq.).
  • Adopt bylaws (M.C.L. 125.3819).
  • Elect officers (chair, secretary) (M.C.L. 125.3817).
  • Appoint advisory committees (M.C.L. 125.3817).
  • Attend educational training programs and meetings (M.C.L. 125.3823(1)).

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