Zoning administrators are among the most important local officials. They are the front line for new development and redevelopment in a community. How well they do, or do not do, their job has a great impact on the future of their community. Consider the following:
- If a zoning administrator makes a mistake it can result in:
- The community getting sued;
- A building being erected or a land use being established contrary to the zoning ordinance; and/or
- Creating a bad impression of the community, depending on how applicants or complainants are treated.
- Millions of dollars are spent by Michigan communities and insurance companies defending communities from lawsuits or paying damages. Some of these costs were created by incorrect decisions by local zoning administrators. A recent judgment in federal court was for $800,000 against a township and its zoning administrator!
- Most zoning administrators have had no formal training. They learned on the job and may not have uniform skills, but courts expect them to know the rudiments of law as it relates to zoning administration.
Past Participant Recommendations
"Take It, Take It, Take It! The information you get will help not only you, but your community as well. You will be glad you did." That was the response from one participant. Looking for more recommendations and/or the opinions of past program participants? Check out the responses below:
- "This program will protect your community, will protect you, and will greatly improve customer service to ALL customers."
- "This is the best class I’ve taken in years. It has given me more confidence to do my job correctly and pointed out areas to work on."
- "I was presented with many practical ideas that I should be able to implement immediately."
- "Excellent instruction, the program notebook and sample documentation will serve as a great resource for now and the future."
- "Knowledgeable instructors, excellent material!"
- "This should be a state mandated program."
- "It is offered by very knowledgeable and experienced instructors, you will learn from fellow participants about what experiences they go through in their municipalities, and it’s a great opportunity to network.”
- "You can learn about the pitfalls to avoid legal issues."
- "You have to go. The information is terrific!"
- "I was able to use one of the example staff reports for both ZBA and Planning Commissions, which made the meeting process smoother."
Past Participant Survey Opinions
Evaluations of the 2021 ZAC Program showed over 90% of participants reported that ZAC had improved their knowledge and confidence in fulfilling their roles. This new knowledge and confidence can be seen in what ZAC participants plan to do after the program, such as 88% who plan to use techniques learned to make better decisions and 80% who plan to share information provided with others. Or as one participant put it, they plan to "[d]evelop office guidelines, review internal processes, do more research before decisions, interact more often with other ZA's, keep abreast of current issues and changes in law." In a previous year participants were asked to describe their personal opinion of their knowledge of zoning administration following program completion, 94% of surveyed participants described their knowledge as good or excellent (as opposed to only 30% before the class). This is typical.
- One hundred percent of the 2021 participants would recommend all Zoning Administrators attend the program.
- All participants that have taken the Zoning Administrator Certificate program have rated the overall program excellent or good, with most rating it excellent.
- When asked when the program should be taken to be of the greatest benefit, the responses were overwhelmingly positive. Respondents asserted that the program would be beneficial to zoning administrators of all skill and experience levels, but especially for new ZAs.