Training, continuing education is best strategy for planning and zoning risk management

Continuing education and training is an important planning and zoning risk management strategy for local governments in Michigan. While Michigan has many training opportunities, participation could be greater.

A man teaching a class
Citizen Planner participants learn about innovative planning and zoning techniques.

The expectation that a government official to know their job, and perform it accordingly is basic. But often when volunteers are appointed to their local planning commission or zoning board of appeals that practice does not always happen.

Training is mandated for building inspectors, tax assessors and police officers. However, many volunteers making decisions about economic development and their community's future are not required to have any training in Michigan. Training and continuing education for those volunteers is viewed as one of the most important and effective ways for local governments to avoid lawsuits in planning and zoning issues.

There are many training opportunities for local planning and zoning officials in Michigan.

Common sources of training include:

Although there are more training opportunities here than many other states, Michigan also has notably low participation rates. One study done by MSU AgBioResearch suggests that while more than half of surveyed land use officials said they are willing to attend training, more than one third were undecided, and ten percent had no desire for training.

Training requirements can be included in planning commission bylaws, joint planning commission ordinance/agreement, and zoning board of appeals rules of procedure. MSU Extension has sample documents including examples of self-imposed training requirements.


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