MSU Extension performance audits can help local government improve their operations

There is always room for improvement, and in the new economy being at one’s best is paramount. A series of tools are available to help improve planning and zoning programs in Michigan.

There is always room for improvement and there are tools available to help local governments discover how to perform their jobs better.

As Michigan transitions toward being competitive in the new economy, one of the strategies that local government can look at is its planning and zoning program. In the face of global competition, Michigan needs to improve on its local approval decisions. They need to happen more efficiently, take a shorter period of time, be done in a predictable manner and with a regional economic focus.

Making procedural or due process errors, lacking appropriate inter-governmental coordination, administrative structure and process are no longer the type of errors local governments can afford to make. One of the significant tools available for local governments to help themselves improve the performance of their planning and zoning programs are a series of eleven Planning and Zoning*A*Syst. publications.

They are designed in a question and answer format to walk one through a process to discover legal deficiencies, areas where better practices can be put in place, and functions that should be happening but are currently not taking place. Local officials can conduct these performance audits themselves, or they can contact Michigan State University Extension Land Use Educators to provide the performance audit services. Conducting a performance audit would also make an excellent capstone presentation for those seeking to be a Master Citizen Planner.

Those Planning and Zoning*A*Syst. performance audit are listed here, and found at Schindler’s Land Use Page, specifically under Pamphlets and Community Planning and Zoning Audits. They are also found at the Michigan State University Extension bookstore using the links below:

  • E3051 Planning and Zoning*A*Syst. #1: Community Planning & Zoning Audit, Basic Setup focuses on making sure your planning commission, and zoning board of appeals are set up properly and a system is in place to make sure the community keeps up-to-date.
  • E3052 Planning and Zoning*A*Syst. #2: Community Planning & Zoning Audit, The Plan reviews the process of planning and plan amendment adoption (to make sure that it was done properly) and a review of an existing plan to determine if it needs to be updated, and a checklist of what should be in a plan.
  • E3053 Planning and Zoning*A*Syst. #3: Community Planning & Zoning Audit, Planning Coordination covers the process of coordination with neighboring government planning (review of each other’s plans); coordination with state, federal and other government agencies; coordination practices; and joint planning commissions.
  • E3054 Planning and Zoning*A*Syst. #4: Community Planning & Zoning Audit, The Zoning Ordinance reviews the process of zoning ordinance and zoning amendment adoption (to make sure that it was done properly) and what needs to be in the file to document that the proper steps were taken.
  • E3055 Planning and Zoning*A*Syst. #5: Community Planning & Zoning Audit, Administrative Structure provides a performance audit for the operation of the planning commission, zoning administrator, and zoning board of appeals. It covers office procedures, job descriptions, filing systems, bylaws, rules of procedure, compliance with the Open Meetings Act, minutes, and process for meetings and decision making.
  • E3056 Planning and Zoning*A*Syst. #6: Community Planning & Zoning Audit, Special Land Uses provides a review of the administrative structure for handling special use permits; preapplications, applications, public notification, record keeping, and use of standards in making decisions.
  • E3057 Planning and Zoning*A*Syst. #7: Community Planning & Zoning Audit, Planned Unit Development provides a review of the administrative structure for handling planned unit development handled as a special use permit and as a zoning amendment; pre-applications, applications, public notification, record keeping, and use of standards in making special use decisions or basis in the plan for zoning amendment decisions.
  • E3058 Planning and Zoning*A*Syst. #8: Community Planning & Zoning Audit, Site Plan Review provides a review of the administrative structure for handling site plan reviews; applications, public notification, record keeping, and use of standards in making decisions.
  • E3104 Planning and Zoning*A*Syst. #9: Capital Improvement Programming provides a review of the process of creating an annual capital improvement program (CIP).
  • E3105 Planning and Zoning*A*Syst. #10: Subdivision and Land Splitting Reviews provides a review of the administrative structure for handling land divisions, subdivisions or plats, site-condominiums, lot splits, and certified plats; preapplication meetings with the developer, public notification, plat review, record keeping, and use of standards in making decisions.
  • E3106 Planning and Zoning*A*Syst. #11: Capital Improvements Review provides a review of the process for the planning commission to review and comment on local government construction projects (which are otherwise not subject to zoning), and outlines how this review can be used as a constructive way to ensure that government-funded projects comply with the adopted plan and local ordinances.

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