Planners Moments video series offers practical information for planning officials

Continuing training is essential for planning commissioners, but finding nearby opportunities is sometimes a challenge. The Planners Moments video series for planning commissioners can help planners obtain training hours without having to travel.

The Planners Moments video series gives planning officials in northwest Lower Michigan a low-cost way to receive high-quality, practical information during their regularly scheduled meetings. Enrollment is now open for the fourth season of this popular program.

Planners in subscribing communities receive a DVD every month containing a new 15-minute video interview with experts and local planning commissioners on a variety of practical land use topics. A packet with current topical information, links and announcements is also included. The new season’s topics include discussions on private property rights, infill development, capital improvement programs, planning and zoning benchmarks and dark sky planning.

Continuing education for planning commissioners is one of the best ways to ensure excellent local planning practices and avoid costly mistakes. A Michigan State University Extension related article and fact sheet recommend sources and yearly hours of education for planning staff and officials. The article and fact sheet suggests a starting point for locally establishing training requirements for planning commissioners of 16-22 hours of training in their first year, and 6-8 hours thereafter.

Local planning commissioners will want to balance the suggested amount of training with what can be afforded and what will be practical. One way to balance this, especially for rural communities where participation in training events might involve considerable travel and expense, could be use of Planners Moments. The Planners Moments series helps those communities by offering the equivalent of three hours of training per year without requiring any travel.

Although the brief Planners Moments videos don’t provide detailed treatment of complex planning subjects, they do raise awareness and the opportunity to seek additional information and training on relevant topics. Planners Moments subscriptions also include online access to the entire Planners Moments video library from the previous three seasons, now 38 topics and growing.

The program is a joint effort of MSU Extension and the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (NWMCOG). The issues and highlighted communities are primarily oriented to northwest Lower Michigan communities but are applicable to other, especially northern, parts of the state. Beginning with the new season, subscriptions are available to communities outside of the 10-county northwest Michigan planning region.

The cost for the program is $120 per year for communities within the NWMCOG region, $160 outside of that area. A higher-priced plan includes printed copies of the information packets for each planning commission member. A yearly subscription to Planners Moments may easily be less than the registration fees, mileage and per diem costs to send one member to one regional education workshop.

Additional information about the Planners Moments program is available at the Northwest Michigan New Designs for Growth website. The new season begins in June 2013.

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