LPI's Planning & Zoning Center Publishes New Guidebook on Rural Water Quality Protection
The Planning and Zoning Center at MSU (PZC), a part of the Land Policy Institute, has developed a new planning and zoning guidebook for use by local government officials in very rural parts of Michigan. Dr. John Warbach, LPI’s Associate Director, led the project and is a co-author, along with Mark Wyckoff, MSU professor, LPI Senior Associate Director and PZC Director; and PZC Team members Mark Jones, Ryan Soucy and Jacqueline Spry. The new Rural Water Quality Protection Guidebook is a necessary addition to the library of Planning Commissioners, Zoning Administrators, and local and appointed elected officials in rural Michigan and throughout the Midwest Great Lakes states. People in these sectors will find expert advice in the Guidebook. It is a “must have” for those working to prevent future contamination of rural watersheds by use of planning and zoning tools.
This Guidebook provides information about how land development and other activities on the land affect water quality; provides an overview of the many entities engaged in water quality protection (e.g., local, state and federal government, individual property owners and nonprofit organizations); provides educational materials on the best management practices that lower the impact of land use activities on our water bodies; and provides sample language for community Master Plans and Zoning Ordinances that helps ensure that future development and other land use activities occur with little impact on the quality of water needed for our communities. The Guidebook offers a simple and straightforward approach that is uniquely suited to enable small rural communities with limited staff and resources with the crafting, updating and implementing of their Master Plans and Zoning Ordinances.
The Guidebook is 116 pages in length and divided into four chapters (Introduction, Understanding Watersheds, the Umbrella of Protection for the Watershed, and Best Management Practices in Rural Areas) and features two appendices (Appendix A: Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance Sample Language, and Appendix B: Local Planning and Zoning Assessment Tool). Chapter 4 and Appendix A comprise the bulk of this Guidebook, and are organized to include a description of each major low impact development category, along with a description of the category, a list of best management practices addressed within the category, and “Good,” “Better,” and “Best tables for that category. For each best management practice in that category there is:
A description of the issue, including the problem being addressed, a gap left for local regulations and an explanation of key terms.
A proposed approach in the Master Plan, including a description, an explanation of key terms and key Master Plan language.
- A proposed approach in the Zoning Ordinance, including a description, an explanation of key terms and key Zoning Ordinance language.
The Guidebook is one of the products of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant to MSU, funded under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, or GLRI. The PZC was selected by EPA to complete a GLRI project targeting 102 local units of government in the three sub-watersheds of the Saginaw Bay Watershed (Cass River, Pigeon/Pinnebog River and Rifle River) to assist with Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance updates to protect water quality. Unlike other programs that received funding under the GLRI program, whose goal is the physical restoration of the Great Lakes and the rivers, streams and near shore areas that feed them, the goal of the PZC project is to prevent further environmental degradation of particularly the Saginaw Bay by assisting local and regional stakeholders with the adoption of measures that will ensure protection of water quality as new development and redevelopment occurs. Learn more about PZC’s GLRI project at Saginaw Bay Watershed Project .
Key direction for the Guidebook was provided by the advisory committee, including Sue Fortune and Anamika Laad from the East Michigan Council of Governments, Zachary Branigan and Greg Eagle from the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy, and Michelle Selzer and Charles Bauer from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
This free publication is available for download on the Land Policy Institute website at: Rural Water Quality Protection Guidebook.
Zoning Administrators are among the most important local officials. They are the front line for new development in a community. How well they do their job has a great effect on the future of their community. However, unlike building inspectors who must pass state exams and take continuing education classes in order to practice, there is no law requiring training for Zoning Administrators. In response, PZC has provided "Zoning Administrator Certificate Program" for the last four years. This is a program that many Zoning Administrators that have completed the program believe should be required for all Zoning Administrators. Here is some feedback from past program participants.
- "I had high expectations for this course. Happy to say you FAR exceeded my expectations.”
- “I was presented with many practical ideas that I should be able to implement immediately.”
- “Knowledgeable instructors, excellent material!”
- “Gave me a great idea of how to do my job, and how to keep myself and my community out of trouble. Definitely recommend this for all ZAs.”
- “The most experienced, open, honest, and knowledgeable instructors.”
- “This should be a state mandated program.”
- “You can learn about the pitfalls to avoid legal issues.”
- “Very targeted to what zoning administrators do - not esoteric information.”
This spring, the certificate-based training program is again being offered in two locations. The training is recommended for all new and current Zoning Administrators, along with private consultants and county planners who consult with local Zoning Administrators. The training schedule is as follows:
Three-Days-in-a-Row Training: St. Ignace
Monday-Wednesday: February 18-20
Quality Inn, St. Ignace, MI
Four Days of Training: Oakland County
Tuesdays: February 26, March 5, 12 & 19
Oakland County Executive Office Bldg., Waterford, MI
The rigorous training (24 hours of instruction) requires a substantial time commitment, which includes completion of eight modules leading to a certificate for those that pass an exam associated with each module. The program also provides techniques for doing zoning administration in ways that reduce legal risks to the Zoning Administrator and their community. Module topics include:
- Job Description, Responsibilities and Basic Ethics;
- Legal Issues;
- Reviewing Applications: Common Procedures and Use of Forms;
- Reviewing Plot Plans and Site Plans;
- Inspections and Violations;
- Preparing Files, Reports and Record Keeping;
- Interactions with other Professionals and Agencies, and Departmental Duties; and
- Customer Service and Counter Behavior.
Registration for the training is now available! To be eligible for a certificate upon completion of this program, participants will need to have also completed MSUE's Michigan Citizen Planner program, either classroom-based or online, or be AICP (American Institute of Certified Planners) certified and successfully pass a multiple choice examination. See the prerequisites section of the registration brochure for complete details. Space is limited, so be sure to reserve a seat today!
Future Training Opportunity
For those unable to attend the dates offered this spring, the series will be offered again in Spring 2014. Please let us know if you are interested in the 2014 program, so you can be added to the contact list.
Survey Results from Past Zoning Administrator Certificate Programs
- When asked Fall 2012 participants to describe their personal opinion of their knowledge of zoning administration prior to the certificate program, 50% described their knowledge as “satisfactory” and 7% marked “unsatisfactory.” Following program completion, 100% of participants described their knowledge of zoning administration as “good” or “excellent.” This is typical.
- Ninety three percent of all participants would recommend all zoning administrators and all consultants providing zoning services attend this program.
- Of the 136 participants that have taken the zoning administrator training program, 100% have rated the overall program “excellent” or “good.”
- Mark A. Wyckoff, FAICP – Director of the Planning & Zoning Center at MSU, as well as Senior Associate Director of the Land Policy Institute.
- Kurt Schindler, AICP – the MSU Extension Regional Land Policy Educator in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula.
- Glenn Pape – the MSU Extension Regional Land Policy Educator in the South Central district.
- Bradley Neumann, AICP – the MSU Extension Regional Land Policy Educator in the Upper Peninsula.
- Richard Wooten, AICP – the MSU Extension Regional Land Policy Educator in the Southeast district.
Tri-County Regional Planning Commission
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant
Development of a Corridor Design Portfolio Along Michigan/Grand River Avenue
On November 21, 2011, the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission (TCRPC), together with its many partners in the Greater Lansing Region of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties, announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program had awarded the proposed "Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability (MMPGS) " a $3 million, three-year grant. The Program will receive funding for regional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation and infrastructure development in a comprehensive and integrated manner.
With this funding from HUD and regional community participation, the TCRPC and its partners are empowered to consider how all of these factors will work together to bring economic competitiveness and revitalization to the Greater Lansing Region. This funding will help the Region to fully plan and implement a regional transformation that manages the declines of population, employment and fiscal capacity, while improving economic opportunity, social equity and environmental quality. Through this partnership and support from HUD, it is possible to make mid-Michigan and its Capital City of Lansing into a 21st century model of sustainability.
The Corridor Design Portfolio
The Planning & Zoning Center at MSU will lead one of the nine projects. The Michigan/Grand River Avenue Corridor from the Capital to Webberville is the subarea focused on in this project. This corridor will be the subject of data gathering and analysis with an eye to identifying placemaking opportunities that improve the range and mix of land uses, activity, housing and transportation options, green space and related measures that would make life along the corridor more sustainable under New Economy parameters and add to the region’s employment opportunities.
There will be a major effort to identify places along the corridor for special analysis by means of charrettes, and also for student projects that examine new options for redevelopment. A wide variety of tools will be identified for use by local governments to implement New Urbanist and Smart Growth principles. These will be embodied in a new portfolio of techniques suitable for a guidebook and online access/distribution.
Corridor Design Portfolio Task Force
The PZC has organized a 50+ Corridor Design Portfolio Task Force to provide input on issues and opportunities that arise during the project and to act as a liaison between the community or organization they represent and the Task Force. The Task Force is comprised of a representative of each of the local units of government along the corridor, local road authorities and transportation organizations, various state agencies, county offices, neighborhood groups, a variety of interested stakeholder organizations, and interested citizens. On September 4, 2012, the first Task Force meeting was held at Hannah Community Center in East Lansing. The purpose was to learn more about the project, team players and the background on the Corridor.
Participants were presented with an inventory and analysis of the Corridor, such as, zoning, population density, age, State Equalized Value (SEV), number of employees and employers, and vacant properties, as well as graphically identifying key nodes and centers along the Corridor. The presentation concluded with an overview of the project’s activities for the next few months and an indication of the type of commitment requested from each task force participant. A survey was provided to each member asking for input on upcoming work tasks. The full PowerPoint presentation is available for download. Learn more at the MMPGS Project website.