There are four core courses in the PMPEI Planning and Zoning Course Program. Each is an in-depth 10 hour course taught by two PMPEI Certified Instructors. Participants receive the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, a Course Handbook with related information and thumbnail visual aids, and other materials they use for hands-on experience with the course content. All courses are continuously updated to include the latest amendments to the PA Municipalities Planning Code, current state and national trends, and recent court decisions affecting planning and zoning.
The Course in Community Planning
This course teaches planning commissioners, local officials, and others how to carry out their responsibilities under the PA Municipalities Planning Code. Participants learn where planning fits in the framework of local government, how planning commissioners relate to the governing body, zoning hearing board, and zoning officer. Topics include basic knowledge of the Municipalities Planning Code, comprehensive planning, plan implementation including zoning, subdivision and land development regulations, the Official Map, and how effective planning commissions work together. Multi-municipal planning and implementing planning agreements is emphasized. The course is designed for new and experienced planners and officials. A planning exercise based on Marcellus Shale natural gas exploration is included in the course.
The Course in Zoning
This course addresses the fascinating, complex, provocative and contentious topic of zoning. It examines how zoning evolved in the United States and how this past history continues to shape the way zoning is practiced in 21st century Pennsylvania. The course begins with a review of the MPC authority for zoning and presents “nuts and bolts” fundamentals for drafting zoning ordinances and amendments. Included in the course are advanced techniques like overlay and performance zoning, planned residential development, and traditional neighborhood development. The relationship of zoning to comprehensive planning and the need for them to be consistent is emphasized. Also in the course are mapping exercises and analyses of zoning ordinance provisions. Problem situations and ethical dilemmas in zoning are discussed. The role of the planning commission with other individuals and local agencies in zoning administration, as well as procedures for enacting zoning ordinances and guidelines for rezoning, are discussed in detail.
The Course in Subdivision & Land Development Review
This course deals with the work of planning commissions in the subdivision and land development review process—from pre-application meetings through project completion. Extensively revised in 2005, the course emphasizes the MPC as the source of authority to regulate development. Planning commissions have a central role play in the land development process which is an integral part of a community’s comprehensive planning program. New in the course are flexible design concepts and options for better project design. Participants learn new skills for administering the review process, reviewing plans, and calculating impacts of development. The course also covers techniques for incorporating internal and external reviews in plan review, and how information sharing can improve local and regional planning.
The Course in Zoning Administration
In this course zoning hearing board members, zoning officials, and elected officials—regardless of experience—learn the basic principles, procedures, and information needed to effectively carry out their functions in the administration of municipal zoning. The course covers the technical aspects of zoning and how to build effective relationships with the public. Hands-on experiences and practice exercises are built into each session. Participants learn how to conduct effective and fair zoning hearings in a mock zoning hearing session. Course topics include the principles of zoning, key zoning terms, the zoning administration team, zoning officer duties, enforcement notices, and zoning hearing procedures, variances, special exceptions/conditional uses, and nonconformities.