Planning official education requirements made easy

In 2003, the General Assembly amended the South Carolina Comprehensive Planning Act by adding orientation and continuing education requirements for planning and zoning officials. The requirements apply to members of the planning commission, board of zoning appeals and architectural review board, as well as staff who directly or indirectly work with these boards and commissions.

The law mandates these officials take six hours of orientation training within 365 days of their appointment and a minimum of three hours of continuing education training each year. The consequence for not meeting the training requirement is severe. An appointed official can be removed from office, and a professional employee can be suspended or dismissed. It could also be grounds for a legal challenge of official actions taken by the board or commission.

State legislators also created the SC Planning Education Advisory Committee and made it responsible for approving all orientation and continuing education training materials. The Municipal Association of South Carolina and South Carolina Association of Counties offer the only state-approved resources for orientation training.

For continuing education materials, the Advisory Committee maintains a listing of organizations on its website that it has approved as sponsors of continuing education programs. This means the Committee has preapproved any materials coming from these sponsors.

"While the preapproval process for training materials is extremely helpful, the extensive listing of approved sponsors and how to access their materials can be daunting," explained Eric Budds, deputy executive director for the Municipal Association. "We looked at the material provided by the American Planning Association [one of the preapproved sponsors]. Not only are the materials preapproved, they are easily accessible and available in an electronic format to non-APA members. To access the materials, nonmembers must establish a login ID and account.

Once the account is set up, users can select a training course from the APA library and choose the group viewing option. According to the Advisory Committee, all continuing education training must be conducted in a group or classroom setting.

After paying for the course, APA provides a link via email to activate the material. Once activated, the material is available for 48 hours.

A person in a position of authority with a working knowledge of the subject matter and jurisdictions in attendance must monitor the training. Additionally, the coordinator must confirm attendance and facilitate discussions. Unlike the facilitators for the orientation training, there are no education/experience requirements for continuing education coordinators.

APA staff identified 11 video programs that it believes are the most relevant for continuing education needs of planning staff and planning/land use commission members. The length of the training materials varies from one to five hours. In addition to the 11 video programs identified, APA has additional streaming products which may be of interest and meet continuing education requirements. The subject matter must fall within 12 broad topic areas listed in SC Code Sec 6-29-1340(c).


​Product Title

​Group Viewing

​ Length

​21st Century Planning Commission short course

​$        225

​355 min

​Introduction to the Planning Commission: part one

​$          80

​120 min

​Introduction to the Planning Commission: part two

​$          80

​120 min

​Introduction to the Zoning Board of Adjustment

​$          80

​  90 min

​Design Review for Officials

​$          60

​  60 min

​Creating Successful Meetings

​$        200

​  60 min

​Informed Decisions: A Guide to Getting Facts and Evidence

$        200

  60 min​

​Site Plan Review for Officials

​$          60

​  60 min

​Staying Out of Court by Avoiding Pitfalls

​$        200

​  60 min

​From Soup to Nuts: Paying for Growth  

​$          25

  ​75 min

​ Great Plans, Great Communities

​$          25

  ​60 min

​Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery

​No charge  

​150 min