Planning Officials Training Program

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This program prepares elected and appointed officials for their role as community representatives by including all the necessary materials to support better development, review processes and decision-making outcomes. The training program includes the breadth of topics needed by commissioners and other audiences working with planners.

The short training videos are organized by topic and grouped into two categories, Essential Skills and Keys to Sound Action; and include cues to look further into State or Local policies as needed.

Essential Skills Videos

  • Roles & Responsibilities (22 minutes):
    Gain a deeper understanding of your role and responsibility as a planning official. Listen as our presenter describes the activities of the planning commission and expectations of planning officials.
  • Managing the Meeting (30 minutes):
    Watch as seasoned veterans share best practices for managing commission public meetings and hearings. Learn tips to establish a welcoming, civil, and ethical process while allowing robust citizen engagement.
  • Staff Reports (30 minutes):
    Learn how to use staff reports and understand the use of the information in these communications. Understand how they are prepared and what detailed and graphic information they contain.
  • Comprehensive Plans (8 minutes):
    A comprehensive plan sets forth a vision, goals for a city's future, and provides the overall foundation for all land use regulation in the city. State law encourages all cities to prepare and implement a comprehensive municipal plan. Learn more about the development and use of comprehensive plans and why they are a valuable resource to planning officials.
  • Zoning & Ordinances (10 minutes):
    Zoning ordinance is a formal categorization of land-use policies applicable to land within a municipality. The zoning ordinance establishes permitted land uses and distinguishes between different land use types. Learn what zoning ordinances are and understand their role in implementing the comprehensive plan as well as ensuring there is adequate space & resources throughout your community.

Keys to Sound Action Videos

  • Findings of Fact (11 minutes):
    Gain a deeper understanding of the importance of making findings of fact during a hearing process, including what they are, how they are used, and the reason you need to make sure your findings of fact align with the standards set forth in your state laws and in the zoning code.
  • Equity in Planning (4 minutes):
    Learn the importance of using equity as a guiding principle throughout the planning process and as a community representative. Review APA's valuable resources and tools available to support planning officials.
  • Ethics in Decision-Making (7 minutes):
    Learn how APA's Ethical Principles in Planning can guide you in your service to the community.
  • Legal Decision-Making (33 minutes):
    Legal, defensible decision making is central to planning official meetings. Listen as legal experts discuss findings of fact, making the record, and the legal context for planning.
  • Procedural Requirements (17 minutes):
    Hear from a seasoned lawyer and a planning professional as they present Open Meetings Act, Conflicts of Interest and Ex Parte Communications to provide you with information that can help you in your role.

Purchase of this program allows the individual purchaser unlimited opportunities to share the materials and video links with their planning officials for up to 2 years from their purchase date.

Communities, towns, villages, and planners that would benefit most from purchasing and using these training materials work with the following groups:

  • Planning Officials (Plan Commission & Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA))
  • Appointed or elected officials
  • Legislative bodies
  • Planning staff working with planning officials
  • APA state chapters conducting planning officials training
  • Professional Development Officers
  • Divisions

This program content was developed by seasoned planners from across the country, all experts in training local planning officials. It is supported and presented by APA, the national organization that is devoted to creating communities of lasting value for everyone.

To build not just better-informed commissioners, but a cohesive and productive commission our program facilitator resources include customizable email templates; PowerPoint slides and resources; a program map that details all program training resources and facilitated discussion questions to further foster engagement between planning officials and expand training opportunities.

The program training objectives for commissioners are to:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of their roles & responsibilities
  • Explore meeting management and implement sound practices and techniques
  • Comprehend planning knowledge areas of importance
  • Implement better decision-making methods and approaches

About the Speakers

Linda Amato
Ms. Amato has over 30 years of consulting experience managing and preparing planning and environmental studies. She served on the Seattle Planning Commission, 2006-2010 and Chair, 2008-2010. Ms. Amato was an instructor for Washington State's Department of Commerce's Short Course on Local Planning where she developed training materials for, and taught, planning commissioners the fundamentals of planning. Linda is a nationally recognized leader in managing and preparing clear and concise planning documents and has presented numerous times at APA conferences. For more than a decade, Linda has been part of APA's national leadership, currently serving on APA's Board of Directors as an At-Large Director.

Ann Bagley
Ann Cooke Bagley, FAICP is a professional planner with over 35 years experience working with small and medium sized cities on long range plans, area plans, zoning ordinances, subdivision regulations, and park plans. She was inducted into the College of Fellows in 2010. She is the Planning Official Development Officer for the APA Texas chapter and coordinator of the Short Course for Elected and Appointed Officials. She conducts workshops for planning commissioners across Texas. From 2005 to 2015, she was the Dallas City Plan Commissioner for District 7. She also served as APA Director at Large from 2010 to 2017 and currently serves on APA's Planning Officials Committee.

Michael Blue
Michael Blue, FAICP is a Principal Consultant at Teska Associates in Evanston, IL. His work includes preparing comprehensive and strategic plans, zoning regulations, and staff and organizational development plans. Michael previously worked as Community Development Director for Highland Park, IL and Deputy CD Director for Mount Prospect, IL. His work in those communities included long range planning, current planning, and support of Council and Commission activities. Michael has been active in national and state leadership of APA for much of his career.

Bonnie Johnson
<p>Bonnie J. Johnson, PhD, FAICP is Director and Professor in the University of Kansas Urban Planning Program within the School of Public Affairs and Administration. She teaches planning theory, land use, and politics, planning, and administration courses. Research focuses on the profession of city planning and the roles and ethics of being a planner, particularly facilitation and communication skills. Contributions to the field include the use of new media for neighborhood organizing, creation of the civic bureaucracy model, groundbreaking research on staff reports, and comparative studies of public service professions and their codes of ethics. Before returning to school for her doctorate, Johnson was a practicing city planner for eight years designing citizen engagement processes for neighborhood, corridor, and city and countywide plans. While at the City of Liberty, Missouri, she was project manager for the award winning Blueprint for Liberty: Land Use Plan. The plan was awarded the American Planning Association, Outstanding Planning Award, for the best plan in the country. She is the Professional Development Officer for the Kansas APA Chapter. She served&nbsp;on the AICP Ethics Committee and presently is on the Planning Accreditation Board.</p>

Gregory Jones
Greg has dedicated his career to counseling municipalities and officials on land use, zoning, good governance, and corporate matters. He advises communities in a wide variety of transactional matters, including intergovernmental agreements, tax increment financing, development agreements, zoning code overhauls, and complex real estate deals. Greg has advocated for clients during negotiations with various local, state, and federal agencies on a variety of land use matters and has successfully defended public officials both in and out of the courtroom. Greg formerly served as a city planner, project manager, and zoning administrator for municipalities in the Chicago-land area. Greg is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and serves on the American Planning Association’s Legislative Committee for the Illinois Chapter. Greg earned his B.A. in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law, where he graduated magna cum laude.

Stan Popovich
Mr. Popovich is the Director of Community Development at the Village of Downers Grove. He has 24 years of public and private sector experience as an urban planner and historic preservation planner. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and holds a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from Purdue University and a Master's Degree in City and Regional Planning from The Ohio State University. Prior to joining the Village in 2006, he gained nine years of planning and historic preservation experience at Hardlines Design Company in Columbus, Ohio.

Marjorie Press
Marj Press has more than 25 years experience as a planner focused on analyzing the feasibility and environmental effects of transportation infrastructure projects in Seattle and across the U.S. Areas of expertise include community outreach and consensus building, coordinating collaborative efforts on multidisciplinary teams, and environmental analysis of the built and social environments. Marj was appointed to the Seattle Planning Commission in 2013, serving two three-year terms, representing the Commission on the Light Rail Review Panel, was Commission vice-chair, and participated in the major comprehensive plan update, Seattle 2035. Marj currently serves on APA's board of directors and is immediate past chair of APA's Planning Officials Committee. Marj is a founding member/co-owner of Terra Plata.

David Silverman
David S. Silverman, AICP is an equity partner with Ancel Glink, P.C. in Chicago, specializing in local government, land use, and economic development matters. Prior to his career as an attorney, David was an urban planning and economic development consultant David is a frequent writer and speaker on a wide variety of land use and economic development issues. David is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, the Urban Land Institute, and the honorary society for advancement of land economics, Lambda Alpha International (Ely Chapter). In addition, he teaches the Land Use Control and Zoning course at UIC Law School. David is co-chair of Ancel Glink’s Zoning and Land Use Group and co-editor of the group’s e-newsletter, In the Zone.