The Citizen Planner Program of Michigan State University Extension offers land use education and training to locally appointed and elected planning officials throughout Michigan. Citizen Planner is a non-credit course series leading to a certificate of completion awarded by MSU Extension. Advanced training to earn and maintain the Master Citizen Planner (MCP) credential is also available. The Citizen Planner Program is offered in a classroom setting as well as a convenient web-based offering called Citizen Planner Online.

Citizen Planner participants report the program fosters greater awareness of land use decision makers’ roles and responsibilities, resulting in more livable communities, the protection and conservation of natural resources, and better overall land use decisions throughout Michigan. Read about the 15+ year history of the Citizen Planner Program, including stories of program impacts and details on a long-term evaluation of the Citizen Planner Program and the Master Citizen Planner credential in a December 2014 issue and a December 2015 of Planning & Zoning News. Citizen Planner Program impacts over time are also documented in a May 2016 Extension bulletin called Measuring Impacts Using Ripple Effect Mapping and Survey Evaluation Techniques (E3312) and a December 2016 issue of the Journal of Extension - Transforming the Knowledge Gap for Local Planning Officials: Impacts of Continuing Education in a Master Citizen Planner Program.

To see all upcoming Citizen Planner events, click on “View more events” in the upper-right corner of the Events box.

Citizen Planner Classroom Program

Citizen Planner offers a seven-week, non-credit course that leads to a certificate of completion awarded by MSU Extension. Earning the certificate involves the successful completion of all seven core sessions. Courses are held for consecutive weeks at a local facility. Each session is designed to be approximately 3 hours in length and includes hands-on learning exercises. The seven core sessions of the Citizen Planner Program provide a basic skill set on roles, responsibilities, and best practices for planning and zoning in Michigan. The course content includes:

  1. Introduction to Planning and Zoning: Smart Growth and the New Economy, Conflict of Interest and Planning Resources
  2. Legal Foundations of Planning and Zoning: Cases, Statutes and other Planning Authority
  3. Roles and Responsibilities, Part I: Master Plan and Planning Process, Sub-Area Plans, and Working with the Public
  4. Roles and Responsibilities, Part II: Zoning, Site Plans and Zoning Board of Appeals Process
  5. Plan Implementation and Development Controls: Subdividing Land, Zoning Controls and Non-Regulatory Techniques
  6. Best Practices for Innovative Planning and Zoning: Green Development, Form-Based Code, Traditional Neighborhood Design and Conservation Design
  7. The Art of Community Planning: Participation, Effective Meetings and Managing Conflict

Instructors for Citizen Planner include MSU Extension educators, MSU faculty, and practicing planners and attorneys in Michigan. The registration for the Citizen Planner Classroom Program is $295 and includes a comprehensive training manual. Interested individuals should review the listing of planned events on the right side of this page or contact the Citizen Planner Program for information on forthcoming events.

Citizen Planner Online

Special announcement: An all-new, completely redesigned Citizen Planner Online is coming in April, 2017. The “old” course described below is available until then, although the new program will be offered at a special half-off introductory price of $137.50 for a limited time after it is introduced. If interested, watch the promotional video below and contact the Citizen Planner office to be placed on a waiting list.

Citizen Planner Online includes content very similar to the classroom program. Citizen Planner Online is divided into three courses - Michigan Citizen Planner 101, 201 and 301. MiCP 101 introduces planning officials to their new roles covering topics that include ethics, drafting the master plan, and working with the public. MiCP 201 covers the basic legal framework of planning and zoning, sources and limitations of government power over land use, and making zoning decisions. MiCP 301 covers roles and power in public policy, choosing appropriate meeting types, and placemaking and innovative techniques. Participants complete all three modules to receive a certificate of completion from MSU Extension. The registration for the three-course package is $275, a $20 discount from the equivalent classroom-based program. Interested individuals can enroll in the program online. If purchasing Citizen Planner Online for another person or multiple individuals, follow these directions.

Master Citizen Planner Credential

Participants that complete the Citizen Planner Classroom Program or Citizen Planner Online are eligible to earn the Master Citizen Planner (MCP) credential. Besides completing the course, the MCP credential requires passage of an online exam, delivery of a capstone presentation, and meeting annual continuing education requirements. The MCP credential was developed to provide advanced skill development and to serve as a benchmark for continuing education among Michigan elected and appointed officials engaged in planning and zoning in Michigan communities.

Master Citizen Planners receive incentives, such as course discounts, exclusive training opportunities, and scholarships for annual conferences and regional training offered by partnering organizations. The MCP designation is an achievement recognized as the standard of excellence among planning officials and community leaders in Michigan.

How to become a Master Citizen Planner


To learn more about the Citizen Planner Program, contact:

Citizen Planner
Michigan State University Extension - Van Buren County
219 E. Paw Paw St., Suite 201
Paw Paw, MI 49079
Phone: 269-657-8213
Fax: 269-657-8212
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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