Roles & Functions of the Zoning Board of Appeals (3-part series)

The zoning board of appeals was created as a “safety valve,” in recognition that the zoning ordinance is not able to anticipate how every property might be affected by zoning. With thousands of individual properties, a single zoning regulation cannot possibly be applied uniformly to every property's unique physical characteristics. Learn how the ZBA serves as a safety valve in circumstances where zoning requirements don't fit. Explore how variances approved without sufficient justification can turn the safety valve into a leak, and a leak into a flood.

Part one explores the delicate balancing act between property rights and public interest along with the impact zoning relationships have on ordinances. Learn more about voting requirements, as well as the duties and responsibilities of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Zoning ordinance interpretations will also be discussed. In Part two, discover the “ins and outs” of variances, including identifying strategies and considerations when hearing variance requests and decision standards that will hold up in court. Find out more about non-use and use variances and review the top 10 incorrect reasons variances are granted. The third and final segment provides the “know-how” and tips that will help you make effective decisions when serving on the Zoning Board of Appeals. In addition to examining the intricacies of site visits, public hearings and deliberation, this session also identifies what must be included in motions. Your role in the process and standards to help focus your preparation efforts are also incorporated into this session.

Thank you to Michigan Township Participating Plan for helping to underwrite the cost of this program. For more information, visit

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.

Continue the learning

MTA’s Planning & Zoning Book Package, available at a discounted rate throughout the month of May for registrants of this webcast, includes 2019 editions of the Township Guide to Planning & Zoning and Planning & Zoning Decision-making. The Township Guide to Planning & Zoning provides a detailed look at the planning process and outlines elements of a successful planning program, while Planning & Zoning Decision-making aims to help planning and zoning officials reach defensible, effective decisions, and build a strong community based on sound planning principles and procedures.

Package rate for both books: $72* (member rate)

Township Guide to Planning & Zoning: $49.50* member ($79.50* non-member)
Planning & Zoning Decision-making:$35* member ($51* non-member)

*rates do not include shipping.

How To Order? 
Online: Order online at MTA’s new bookstore
Fax: Print the downloadable order form and fax to (517) 321-8908. 
Mail: Print the downloadable order form and mail to Michigan Townships Association, P.O. Box 80078, Lansing, MI, 48908-0078.

Components visible upon registration.