What’s all this talk about joint planning?

Joint planning allows multiple municipalities in Michigan to collectively, more effectively and more efficiently plan for their community’s future.

Over the past several years, you may have overheard someone mentioning joint planning and wondered, “What exactly is joint planning?”

Joint planning occurs when two or more municipalities, such as a city and a township, work together to plan for a collective future. This collaboration can be established formally though a joint planning commission. The joint planning commission can be given the planning authority over a portion of land from each of the participating municipalities, allowing the existing individual planning commissions to maintain oversight of the remaining areas. The joint planning commission may also be given planning authority over all the land in the participating municipalities, replacing all existing individual planning commissions. In either case, each municipality maintains representation on the joint planning board.

In 2003, the Joint Municipal Planning Act (Act 226 of 2003) was passed in Michigan establishing the legal authority for units of government to form joint planning commissions. Prior to this time, each unit of government could only address common planning issues within the constructs of their individual municipality.

Joint planning came about as a response for addressing issues that are broader than local government boarders. For example, most natural features do not follow our grid system of townships. Rivers, lakes, and forests regularly cross over these lines. The same can be said about human development, such as with the growth of cities. Managing these issues on an individual municipality-by-municipality basis has often led to inconsistency in approach and duplicity of efforts, increasing costs and limiting overall effectiveness. Joint planning allows multiple units of government to share responsibility in a single planning process providing a more comprehensive and cost-effective approach to planning.

Across Michigan, several communities are in the process of, or have completed the process of, forming a joint planning commission. In several of these efforts, Michigan State University Extension has provided education vital to their success.

In Newaygo County, for example, the City of Fremont, Dayton Township and Sheridan Charter Township have established a joint planning commission with full planning and zoning authority for all three communities. This commission now has the ability to better and more comprehensively address growth management around the city of Fremont while maintaining and preserving the rural character of the surrounding townships. As one of the first communities in Michigan to have completed this process since the passage of enabling legislation in 2003, they have been a model community for others across the state.

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