Planning commissions’ reviews ensure consistency

The planning commission plays an important role in reviewing local infrastructure and capital expenditures for consistency with the community’s master plan and the plans of its neighbors.

In the second of a two-part series on local government capital improvement programs (CIP), this Michigan State University (MSU) Extension news article describes a planning commission’s statutorily required review of infrastructure and capital expenditures. See part one: “Update your community’s Capital Improvement Program.”

The Michigan Planning Enabling Act (MPEA) Public Act 33 of 2008, as amended, describes in §61(1) and §61(2), after the adoption of a Capital Improvement Program (CIP), and even in the absence of a CIP, construction shall not be started or authorized on a street, square, park, playground, public way or other open space or public building or structure covered by a municipal or county master plan until the project is submitted to the planning commission for review and approval.

For this review to take place, the legislative body or other body having jurisdiction over the authorization or financing of the project must first submit information regarding the location, character and extent of the proposed street, public way, open space, structure or utility project to the planning commission. When reviewing the proposed project, the planning commission should at a minimum consider the following:

  1. Is the proposed project consistent with adopted plans?
  2. Is the project consistent with other governmental management plans?
  3. Is the project consistent with the plans of each municipality located within or contiguous to the local unit of government?
  4. Is the project consistent with adopted, if any, capital improvement plans?

If the answer to any of the above is “no,” then the planning commission’s review of the project should not be favorable.

The planning commission shall approve or disapprove the project within 35 days and shall submit its reasons for approval or disapproval to the body having jurisdiction over the project (§ 61(1) and (2)). If the planning commission fails to respond within 35 days of submission of the proposal to the planning commission, the project shall be considered to be approved by the planning commission (§61(1) and (2)).

The planning commission’s review should be formal and include a motion complete with findings of fact, recitation of reasons and the action to approve or disapprove.

If the planning commission’s action is to disapprove the project, the legislative body may decide to overrule the planning commission’s decision, and that’s where the story gets more complicated. There are differences between types of local government planning commissions (i.e. city vs. county) in the number of votes needed among members of the legislative body to overrule a planning commission decision on infrastructure expenditures.

For the rest of the story, MSU Extension developed a step-by-step checklist, detailed by type of local government planning commission, for local governments: Land Use Series: “Checklist #1K: Review of Infrastructure and Public Capital Expenditures.

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