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Basic Legal Framework for Planning Officials

This course introduces the laws that give planning officials the powers to perform their duties. It also introduces the sources and types of law that planning officials should know in order to understand the legal basis for planning and zoning.

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Course Info

  • Duration 10 video lessons (47 Mins)
  • Published Published
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Browse Course Chapters

  • 1. Introduction (5 mins)
  • 2. How are Planning Officials Empowered? (4 mins)
  • 3. Constitutional Law (7 mins)
  • 4. State and Federal Statutes and Land Use (3 mins)
  • 5. Statutes and Local Government Functions (4 mins)
  • 6. Case Law (5 mins)
  • 7. Common Law (7 mins)
  • 8. Attorney General Opinions (3 mins)
  • 9. Why Know All This? (3 mins)
  • 10. Review Activity (2 mins)

Course Description

There are federal, state and local laws that give planning officials the powers to perform their duties, in addition to laws that govern a planning official’s actions in their role. Planning officials are empowered by enabling statutes, which authorize (or enable) local planning and zoning. These statutes vary from state to state but all serve the purpose of allowing local governments to make determinations on a vast majority of land use decisions. While most local governments across the U.S. exercise significant control in planning and zoning, municipal officials must also be aware of other laws affecting them. These may include the U.S. Constitution, state and federal statutes, case law, common law, and attorney general opinions.

By the end of this course, you will be able to recognize the different legal requirements that local planners must be aware of, as well as resources to stay up to date on ever-changing laws. This course is especially important for new planning officials who are tasked with making land use decisions that adhere to standards set forth by various governmental entities. We discuss some of the most common legal trouble that planning commission’s run into and how these issues can be avoided. Planning officials need to be aware of the complex relationship between planning and zoning and private property rights along with court decisions and legislation related to these topics.

Learn these skills

  • Ethics
  • Law and Policy
  • Regulations
  • Zoning Codes

Meet Your Instructor

Wayne Beyea

Wayne Beyea

Wayne Beyea is a faculty member and senior specialist - outreach within the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction’s Urban & Regional Planning Program. Wayne directs the American Citizen Planner Collaborative, an online training program for planning officials nationwide in partnership with land grant universities.

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