The Quiet Revolution in Training Citizen Planners

Zoning Practice — April 2007

By John Nolon


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Since 1998, a spontaneous movement to train local land-use and planning board members has occurred. At that time, only New Hampshire had a state law for such training, and it was a modest beginning. A robust approach to training emerged in the Southeast in 2001 when Kentucky became the first state to require training for local board members.

Since then, legislatures in Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisiana, and very recently, New York and New Jersey, followed suit with requirements for planning commissioner training. At minimum, the variety of approaches to mandating training created by the trailblazers can help inform the states that are considering such measures.

This issue of Zoning Practice discusses various state requirements related to local planning and zoning board member training and cites a number of voluntary training programs offered by universities and non-​governmental organizations.


Page Count
Date Published
April 1, 2007
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American Planning Association

About the Author

John Nolon
John R. Nolon is Distinguished Professor of Law at Pace University School of Law where he teaches property, land use, and sustainable development law courses and is Counsel to the Law School's Land Use Law Center. He has been an Adjunct Professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies since 2001. Professor Nolon served as the James D. Hopkins Professor from 2009-2011 and the Charles A. Frueauff Research Professor of Law during the 1991-92, 1997-98, 1999-2000, and 2000-01 academic years. He received the Richard L. Ottinger Faculty Achievement Award in 1999 and won the Goettel Prize for faculty scholarship in 2006. In 2009, he was awarded the National Leadership Award for a Planning Advocate by the American Planning Association. Professor Nolon received his J.D. degree from the University of Michigan Law School where he was a member of the Barrister's Academic Honor Society. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Nebraska, where he was President of the Senior Honor Society. He has served as a consultant to President Carter's Council on Development Choices for the 1980's, President Clinton's Council on Sustainable Development, New York Governor George Pataki's Transition Team, and Governor Elliot Spitzer’s Transition Team. Professor Nolon received APA's Planning Advocate Award in 2009 and the International City/County Management Association's Annual Award for Service to Local Government in 2014.