Sessions

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Speakers

Neil Sheridan

MTA Executive Director

MTA

Sheridan has a rich background in local government, beginning as a teenager and then being a member of the Groveland Township (Oakland Co.) Planning Commission and its Board of Review for 12 years. He has helped lead numerous Michigan efforts focused on regional economic development. Sheridan co-authored an economic strategy with Public Sector Consultants for the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) called “Accelerating Growth,” which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer later said she would use in her administration. Previously, he led a group of 80 townships, cities, nonprofits, businesses and governments to produce a comprehensive economic development game plan for coordination with the state and federal governments.

Sheridan was president of SVPI, an advisory and management services corporation active internationally. He has worked with hundreds of corporations, nonprofits, foundations, governments and small businesses on strategy, innovation and performance improvement initiatives. He is a past member of the SBAM board of directors and previously led an SBAM Legislative Action Committee task force. Additionally, he’s served on healthcare, community development, cultural and foundation boards for many years.

Sheridan is also a researcher on leadership and innovation. He has taught workshops and courses at Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and others on strategy, marketing, management and entrepreneurship.

Michael Selden

Director of Member Information Services

Michael Selden is MTA's director of Member Information Services. As director, he supervises the development and delivery of Association member information programs and services.

Before joining MTA in November 2015, Selden served as the city manager of Wayland, Mich., for three years. In that role, he prepared and managed the city budget, supervised 22 employees, oversaw multiple city departments and served as liaison to numerous boards and commissions. Selden also served as the city manager of Bangor, Mich., from 2007-2012. He holds a master’s in public administration from the University of Michigan—Flint, where he also earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Bill Fahey

Attorney

Bill Fahey is a founding partner of the law firm Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes. The firm has been recognized as one of the “Best Law Firm’s in America” by US News & World Report. Bill has represented large and small townships across Michigan for 35 years and regularly teaches MTA workshops on a wide range of township legal issues.

Steve Langworthy

Planning & Zoning Guru

Steve Langworth received a Masters of Urban Planning from the University of Michigan and spent 6 years as a planning director and zoning administrator for the city of Kentwood, Michigan (among others), and over 20 years as a consulting planner, most recently with LSL Planning in Grand Rapids. Prior to retiring, Steve held the position of Director of Land Use & Long Range Planning for the city of Dublin, Ohio.

Steve has authored numerous Master Plans, Zoning Ordinances, and special studies for communities of all sizes and characteristics. He is a frequent MTA presenter and the principal author of MTA’s Township Guide to Planning and Zoning and Township Planning & Zoning Decision-making Handbook.

Chris Patterson

Attorney

Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes PLC

Chris Patterson joined the firm of Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes PLC in 2013 after two years serving as Law Clerk for Federal District Court Judge, the Honorable Lawrence P. Zatkoff. Chris received his Juris Doctor from Michigan State University, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University. He specializes in general municipal law, as well as commercial and real property law.

Ron Liscombe

Attorney, Principal

Miller Canfield

Ron Liscombe is an attorney and principal with Miller Canfield. He has deep knowledge of state and local government, having worked in a variety of policy and program management roles prior to joining the firm, including Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Lakeland, FL, policy counsel in the Executive Office of the State of Michigan, and an associate attorney at a local law firm representing both public and private sector clients. 

Seth Koches

Attorney

Bauckham, Sparks, Thall, Seeber & Kaufman P.C.

Seth Koches is an attorney at Bauckham, Sparks, Thall, Seeber & Kaufman P.C. Prior to joining the firm, Seth worked as an assistant prosecuting attorney for 7 years in the Oakland County and Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s office prosecuting cases from simple retail fraud to criminal sexual conduct and assault with intent to murder. Seth’s primary practice encompasses nearly every aspect of municipal law including annexation, ordinance enforcement, planning and zoning, and amicus writing. 

John Jackson

President

McKenna

John Jackson is President of McKenna, offering world-class urban design, planning and development services. John participates in a wide range of projects, bringing more than 30 years of experience in planning, urban design, and economic development. His expertise in urban design is instrumental in the creation of real life solutions for the people who live in the communities with which he works. He ensures that the implementation of any vision can be realized; from master planning to the day-to-day practicalities of small-scale projects. Among his top skills is his ability to translate complicated development strategies into cohesive physical solutions, making sure that the project’s vision is never lost. John holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design from Miami University and a Master of Urban Planning from The University of Michigan.

Laura Genovich

Attorney

Foster Swift Collins & Smith PC

Laura Genovich practices commercial law, bankruptcy law, and municipal law at the Grand Rapids office of Foster Swift Collins & Smith PC. She works closely with municipal clients on issues related to many aspects of township law, including zoning, real estate transactions, public finance, and much more. She handles complex property tax appeals and has special expertise in property tax exemptions and special assessments. Laura also works with both public entities and private clients (including developers) on land use matters, including development agreements, annexations, Act 425 agreements, and zoning approvals, and is a regular presenter for MTA and other organizations around the state.

Leslie Abdoo

Attorney & Shareholder

Foster Swift Collins & Smith PC

Leslie Abdoo is a member of Foster Swift's Municipal and General Litigation Practice Groups. Leslie advises the firm's public entity clients including cities, townships, counties, villages, libraries and local health departments on compliance with applicable state and federal laws. Her areas of expertise include civil infraction ordinance and code violations, zoning, planning and land use, inter-local agreements, and drafting ordinances for marijuana, wind energy, solar energy, short-term rentals, and broadband internet.

Overview

MTA retreats offer education tailored to your role in your township

No one understands townships or your roles and responsibilities like the Michigan Townships Association. That’s why we’ve created our unique Professional Development Retreats offering more than 10 hours of intensive learning targeting the challenges (and opportunities!) you face while providing the information you need to succeed. Whether you've been in township government for 2 years or 22 years, you can’t afford to miss these intensive learning (and networking!) events designed specifically for your role as a township official. Sessions offered include:

Bring Your Whole Team Together to Win the Zoning Game

Zoning and planning involve complex rules, much like chess, where each team member has unique powers and make different moves to achieve the township’s goals. Gain a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the planning commission, zoning administrator, zoning board of appeals, and township board. Learn how the team can work better together to provide more effective planning strategies and reach more defensible zoning decisions.

Meeting Guidelines & Ground Rules
How can you play the game if you don’t know the rules? In this game, rule number one is you must comply with the Open Meetings Act (OMA)! Gain insights into the law, tips for remembering the rules and tricks for ensuring your playbook keeps your township in compliance.

Are You in Control of Your Meeting?
Being unprepared is certain death for a meeting. Proper preparation doesn’t just ensure you’re ready, it allows you to be purposeful in allocating time to deliberate important topics. Get tips for meeting prep, techniques for ensuring all voices are heard and review the basic considerations of public hearings and public comment.

Dealing with Difficult Issues (and People!)
Land use changes may be viewed by residents with suspicion, fear, questions—and even anger. It can be difficult to maintain the decorum and professionalism necessary of public bodies when faced with a roomful
of concerned people. This session will help you identify strategies for dealing with controversial land use changes in your community.

Managing Township Development
One of the more challenging situations a planning commissioner faces is holding fast to the master plan when a proposal is inconsistent. Temptations to cave when “something is better than nothing” or “just this
once won’t affect our vision” will certainly disrupt what you spent so much time planning for. Learn techniques to help your township be proactive in holding out and avoid a reactionary selling out.  

Understanding & Reviewing Site Plans and Variances
Interpreting the zoning ordinance, classifying unlisted land uses, and approving or denying variances can be highly controversial and likely to end up in court. Learn the criteria for issuing variances, and the limits on discretion for issuing special use permits and site plan approvals. Get tips for examining findings of fact, as well as the methods of proper documentation and delivery of the decision. Delve into conditions of approval and examine the steps necessary to ensure compliance with ordinance requirements and applicable laws.

Adopting and Amending Ordinances
Your township’s zoning ordinance helps steer the character of your community. But even the best ordinances become out of date. Dig into the process of reviewing your township’s ordinance needs and the steps
you need to take to amend it to ensure your township’s zoning ordinance is current and effective.

What You Need to Know Now About Renewable Energy Ordinances
As the popularity (and profitability!) of alternative energy soars, townships are seeing increasing numbers of special land use requests from energy developers, including those harnessing both wind and solar  energy. This session will help you tailor your ordinances and develop land use standards to regulate wind and solar energy farms. 

Master Plan Must Haves (and Have Nots)
Your township’s master plan is an overall guide for growth and development, providing guidance for its future direction. Learn the ins and outs of master plans from what should be included to how (and how  often) you should be reviewing and updating it.


Many thanks to Shumaker Technology Group for their generous sponsorship of this retreat!

Schumaker Technology Group

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