Resources and Tools

Being a Planning Commissioner or a member of a Board of Zoning Appeals is a tough job. Individuals dedicated to their communities, with full time jobs, are thrust into positions where they can make important and difficult decisions guiding the future of growth, economic development, land preservation, and transportation in Maryland. Where is one to go to seek training and guidance on this critical issue? A great place to start is the Planning Commissioner Training Course,  created following the Smart and Sustainable Growth Act of 2009. The course, available both online and in person at the Maryland Municipal League (MML), Maryland Association of Counties (MACo), and Maryland Planning Commissioners Association (MPCA) conferences (as well as on demand for interested jurisdictions), contains modules on Planning 101, Comprehensive Planning, and Smart Growth in Maryland.  It is an excellent first step, but what about the citizen planner who wants to take the next step? This is where the MPCA offers help.

The MPCA is a statewide educational organization of municipal, county and regional planning commissioners and boards of zoning appeals members. The MPCA Board and its members strive to improve the quality of life for all Marylanders through planning, environmental protection, historic preservation, and growth management. Founded in 1983 and headquartered in Baltimore, the MPCA is dedicated to the continuing education and professionalism of Maryland’s citizen planners. All members of a planning commission/board and/or board of appeals in Maryland counties and municipalities (incorporated cities, towns and villages) that exercise planning authority are automatically members of the MPCA.

The MPCA hosts an annual conference every fall. The 2017 event was held in Easton and was a huge success! With sessions ranging from solar energy planning to sign ordinances, attendees learned about pressing planning issues facing our communities and networked with other members from around the state. You can view the presentations from Easton here.

The MPCA is hosting the 2018 conference at the Holiday Inn in Gaithersburg on Thursday, October 25 and Friday, October 26. The theme for this year is Citizen and Professional Planners: A Vital Partnership. Planning staff and the boards with whom they work are the frontline of solid community development in Maryland, and successful collaboration between them is essential. MPCA is working with APA MD, a comparable support organization for professional planners in Maryland, to develop a session dedicated to best practices and strategies for strengthening the “vital partnership” throughout the state. The MPCA Board is still finalizing the conference agenda, but likely session topics include:

  • Open Meetings Act Training
  • Resources for Revitalization and Redevelopment
  • Planning Commissioner Ethics and Ex Parte Communication
  • The A Better Maryland State Development Plan
  • Nuts and Bolts of Being a Planning Commissioner

In addition to these sessions, on Thursday October 25, City of Gaithersburg staff and a team of experts will delve into the legacy of New Urbanism in Maryland, 30 years out, and provide a tour of the City’s Kentlands, Crown, and RIO Washingtonian developments. These tours will offer an inside look at some of Maryland’s most enduring projects from the individuals who helped create them.

In the Summer of 2017, the MPCA conducted an outreach project around Maryland, consisting of an online survey and a series of regional meetings. Check out the results here. The membership spoke loud and clear. It wants more training and best practices, as well as strategies for working more closely with its professional planning staff. The MPCA Board heard you and organized the 2018 conference in response to these desires. It is also developing a draft outline of an organizational strategic plan, which will be discussed during the annual meeting on October 26 at the conference. The MPCA and the Maryland Department of Planning encourage everyone interested in quality planning in Maryland; citizen planners, professional planners, elected officials, citizens, and more, to join us in Gaithersburg when the leaves are orange and red.

Conference registration is now open. To learn more about the MPCA or the conference, or if you are interested in a sponsorship, please contact Joe Griffiths at 410-767-4553 or at