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

Continuing education and training an important planning and zoning risk management strategy for local governments in Michigan. While Michigan has many training opportunities, participation has not been very high.

February 4, 2012 - Author: Kurt H. Schindler,

The expectation for a government official to know their job, and perform their job 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.

And the lack of training and continuing education by those volunteers is often viewed as the most important and effective way for local governments to avoid lawsuits in planning and zoning issues. If one is a building inspector, tax assessor, or police officer, training is mandated.  But many volunteers making decisions about economic development and a community’s future, which can easily run afoul of someone’s private property rights, are not required to have any training in Michigan.

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

Common sources of training include:

We have more training opportunities in Michigan than most states have. But Michigan also has one of the lowest participation rates. One study done by MSU AgBioResearch suggests that just more than 50 percent of local planning and zoning officials have attended any training at all.

Yet, research done in the western part of the United States shows that initial training and continuing education in planning and zoning is one of the most effective risk management stratagies a local government can employ.

That is why MSU Extension’s sample planning commission bylaws, Joint Planning commission ordinance/agreement, and zoning board of appeals rules of procedure include self-imposed training requirements. (

Tags: community, fiscal management, government, msu extension, planning, public policy

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