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Joint Municipal Planning

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Cole M. Young
Foster Swift Municipal Law News: MTA Edition
January 2008

The Joint Municipal Planning Act ("Act") allows Townships and other municipalities to engage in joint planning. The Michigan Legislature created this Act (MCL 125.131, et seq.) in an effort to curb urban sprawl and encourage smart regional growth. The Act empowers multiple municipalities to collectively create a joint plan by establishing a Joint Planning Commission.

Procedures and Powers

The Act provides that two or more municipalities may each adopt an ordinance approving an agreement to create a Joint Planning Commission. The agreement must specify:

  • The composition and jurisdictional area of the Commission.
  • The members’ qualifications, the selection process, and terms of office.
  • Conditions and procedures for removal from office, and for filling vacancies.
  • How the operating budget will be shared.
  • Procedures enabling municipalities to join or withdraw.
  • Which planning act the Commission would follow.

Once established, the Commission has all planning powers and duties of the previous local planning commissions, zoning boards, and/or zoning commissions within the designated joint jurisdictional area.

Submitting the Ordinance to Electors

Within seven days after a municipality publishes the required notice of the ordinance, a registered elector of the municipality may file a notice of intent to file a petition. If this notice is filed, then within 30 days following publication of the notice of the ordinance a petition may be submitted to request that the registered electors of the municipality approve the ordinance.

Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Act

The Commission must conduct its business at a public meeting held in compliance with the Open Meetings Act. Moreover, any writing prepared, owned, used, in possession of, or retained by a Commission in the performance of an official function is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Possible Uses and Applications

Various state and federal initiatives and funding sources are looking to see that local governments are cooperatively acting to deliver government services in a regional or area-wide manner. Joint planning under the Act may help to make your proposed project more attractive for state or federal funding.

We have also seen a demand for joint planning in connection with Act 425 agreements that address large areas of a community. Under these so-called "global 425 agreements," cities and townships can agree in advance to the terms and conditions of land transfers, in lieu of going through the annexation process. In addition to the other advantages of such an agreement (shared control, shared revenues), joint planning can provide a platform for implementing mutually-agreeable development goals between the City and the Township. The Act provides express authority and guidance for these activities.