Regional Planning in Michigan: Challenges and Opportunities of Intergovernmental Cooperation

May 2005
Elisabeth Gerber, Justin Phillips

This report summarizes one of the first academic studies to systematically examine the factors that affect the formation and ongoing operations of regional governmental planning efforts related to land use issues. Michigan law (as with many states) allows numerous forms of regional planning, though state policy does little to actively encourage such efforts, and the state’s tradition of home rule creates strong disincentives for regionalism. Despite these obstacles, many efforts are taking place around the state to improve planning across political boundaries. Governor Granholm’s Michigan Land Use Leadership Council of 2003, for example, examined land use issues and recommended enhancements to state policies relating to regional planning. Locally, officials across the state are drawing together cities and their surrounding townships and villages to discuss how they might enhance their regional planning efforts. Surprisingly little is known, however, about the range of regional planning currently under way in Michigan or elsewhere.

To help fill this void, the University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP), under the direction of Professor Elisabeth Gerber, conducted a study of existing regional planning efforts across the state.