Planning Official Trainings

Planning Official Trainings are for Arkansas Planning Commissions and individuals that work with those Commissions. Attendees include Planning Commissioners, Board of Zoning Adjustment members, Mayors, Fire Chiefs, city planners, and anyone else that wants to learn more about the work of Arkansas Planning Commissions.

The curriculum is developed and instructed by experienced Arkansas planners. Six courses are offered. Each course is 3-hours long and held live online using video conferencing. These courses are interactive and include case studies, a mock Planning Commission Meeting, quizzes on content, Q&A, and discussion.

You are welcome to take one course, a few of the courses, or all six courses. Those who complete all six courses and a capstone become Certified Arkansas Planning Officials.


The Fall 2022-Spring 2023 series of courses is full. If you would like to be notified as soon as the next series opens for registration, join our mailing list. You may also contact us at or (501) 916-6050.

Course Descriptions

Course 1: Planning Overview

  • The history of city planning.
  • The city planning process.
  • The legality of city planning.

Course 2: Planning Commissions & Boards of Zoning Adjustment

  • Establishing a Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Adjustment.
  • The role, powers, and duties of Planning Commissions and Boards of Zoning Adjustment.
  • Establishing a planning map.
  • City planning rules, resolutions, and ordinances.
  • Ethical principles for city boards and commissions.
  • Meeting basics, roles, bylaws, and Roberts Rules of Order.
  • A mock Planning Commission meeting.

Course 3: Zoning & Rezoning

  • The purpose of zoning and statutory authority.
  • Rules for zoning.
  • The zoning map.
  • Zoning issues and types of zoning.
  • Case law impacting zoning decisions.
  • Rezoning application review.
  • Zoning case studies.

Course 4: Subdivisions

  • How a subdivision is defined.
  • Subdivision regulations and code.
  • Platting procedures and plat approval.
  • Subdivision application review and approval.

Course 5: Conditional Use, Development Review, & Variances

  • What conditional uses are.
  • The Conditional Use Permit (C.U.P.) application and review.
  • Legal concerns and case law.
  • Site plan review.
  • Development regulations.
  • Variances.

Course 6: Advanced Planning Tools

Requirements: Courses 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5

  • Small area studies.
  • Design overlay districts.
  • Offsite improvements.


Individuals may enroll in the Capstone after completing Courses 1-5. You will receive information at that time. The Capstone includes:

  • Reading a book about planning. The two current options are: The Citizens Guide to Planning by Christopher Duerksen and How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken by Alex Marshall.
  • Attending a Planning Commission meeting. The meeting must be held in a city other than that of the candidate, have a population of 4,000 or greater, and the agenda should include several cases that are to be decided.
  • Writing a paper that includes (1) a book response, (2) a review of the Planning Commission meeting attended, and (3) thoughts about how the Planning Commission trainings have related to the candidate’s work with Planning Commissions. [All courses must be completed before submitting the written essay.]

Partnership Between APA Arkansas and APAC

Since 1999, the Arkansas Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA Arkansas) has partnered with the Arkansas Public Administration Consortium (APAC) to offer training for Arkansas city planning officials. APA Arkansas oversees the curriculum and instruction. APAC handles the program administration including advertising, registration, technology, course completion tracking, etc.

Join our Mailing List

You can join our mailing list by completing this Google form. You will receive program updates and registration information as soon as it becomes available.

Contact Us

Phone: (501) 916-6050

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