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2023: Leveraging the Planning Process to Create a Model of Engagement for Communities in Need

Innovation Fellow - 2023

Authors: Jake Parcell


Leveraging the planning process to improve the results of regulations and development for communities is the quintessential function of what municipal planners, consultants, and volunteer boards and commissions strive to accomplish. In Michigan, this process is accomplished through decades worth of empirical research combined with guidance from state statutes like the Michigan Planning Enabling Act (MPEA) (2008) and Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (MZEA) (2006). However, the process has a tendency to fail underserved communities that do not have the capacity to engage their population at the regional level. This Co-Learning Plan (CLP) seeks to create policy recommendations based on best practices and public feedback to leverage the planning process for the greatest impact in our overstretched communities. 

This CLP will accomplish this by creating a review of the shortcomings of planning processes and the problems presented to decision-makers via public meetings. Furthermore, this CLP will review the shortcomings on the community’s behalf, such as communication barriers, internet access, and costs. After this research is compiled each facet of the planning processes will be broken down into a matrix that highlights the best practices at each phase. This matrix will be sent out for community review, in which the most effective steps of the process will be highlighted and then standardized into a recommendation for communities to improve their planning processes.

The formal planning process can be lengthy and difficult, which includes an ample amount of public participation and volunteer action from start to finish. Ultimately, the results of the public input session of this paper focused heavily on achieving consensus, communicating effectively with difficult to reach populations, managing the timeframe and costs of the planning process, and helping to enable staff to facilitate the process. These recommendations can help local board and commission members visualize 

the planning process from start to finish and make recommendations for amending statutes that will help streamline planning in Michigan. This CLP is the first step towards helping communities who need ways to increase their capacity to utilize the planning process for the best results. This CLP received a high level of participation from volunteers across the state; and seeks to move forward with more outreach and research.

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