Training Programs

Local Leader Training and Certification Programs

The Land Use Law Center offers many training opportunities to community leaders representing all interest groups involved in land use matters. These include:

Through its training programs, the Center introduces respected local leaders to innovative land-use techniques and works to develop consensus among stakeholders in the development process.

Strategic Plan for the Center’s Training Programs

Smart growth strategies become realities when local governments adopt laws, ordinances, and comprehensive plans. Since the 1920s, state law across the country has given local governments vast authority to control what happens on the land. The land-use regulations adopted by individual communities create a blueprint for sprawl or for smart growth—for random development or for growth that is directed to appropriate areas and that preserves natural and cultural resources, open space, and quality of life.

Law schools are uniquely qualified to study and describe strategies for balanced patterns of land development—patterns that are cost-effective, environmentally sound, and equitable. Over the past 30 years, the Land Use Law Center at Pace University School of Law has worked with rural, suburban, and urban communities in New York’s Hudson River Valley and beyond to guide land-use decisions at the local level toward sustainable development solutions. The Center rejected a conventional top-down approach to environmental problems and the problems of sprawl. Understanding that land-use decisions remain for the most part in the hands of local leaders, and having learned from conservation biologists and systems theorists that human communities and other systems evolve toward ordered and beneficial behaviors from the bottom up, we reasoned that sustainable development begins with smart local leadership.

Four-Day Land Use Leaders Training Program

Please see our Land Use Leadership Alliance Training Program page for further details on this four-day comprehensive program.

One-Day Land Use Leaders Training Program

The Land Use Leaders Training Program is designed to benefit zoning and planning board members, members of other administrative boards, members of local legislative bodies, and future board members. The Land Use Leaders Training Program consists of basic and advanced training modules that teach local board members:

  • how the land use system operates,

  • procedural aspects of land use decision-making,

  • board roles and responsibilities,

  • local conservation and development techniques, and

  • how to use mediation to creatively resolve land use disputes.  

The training program gives local board members the practical and technical skills they need to make sound land use decisions and to successfully address critical land use issues facing their communities.

Each one-day program is effective because it is tailored to deal with the specific issues of the participants. The program has been adopted by the Dutchess County legislature and has been used to train over 125 local leaders - leaders from nearly every town, city, and village in the county. The program is conducted in Dutchess in conjunction with the county’s planning federation.

Orientation and Strategic Workshops

Working with graduates of these two programs, the Center conducts orientation and strategic planning workshops for local leaders in individual communities. These include workshops for local boards charged with drafting or updating comprehensive plans and zoning laws, developing stormwater management programs, smart growth strategies, natural resource conservation programs, development district initiatives, and other local programs. Workshops of this type have been conducted in Schodack, Warwick, Rhinebeck, Pelham, Montgomery, Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow, Dover, and Poughkeepsie.

The Zoning School Certification Program

The Zoning School is a land use training program for local government officials.  The program allows local governments to self-certify their boards when the majority of the board has satisfactorily completed five of the nine lessons contained within the program.  Please visit our Zoning School page for more details on this program.

Community and Regional Lectures

Center staff members are available to regional and local agencies and governments to deliver talks and lectures on current land use issues and topics of concern.

Land Use Dispute Resolution Training

The Center has developed a nationally recognized dispute resolution program for land use disputes. Using the mediation, facilitation, and community decision-making skills taught in its four-day training program, the Center provides orientations for local leaders regarding the processing of specific development projects. These orientations enable communities to process land use applications in ways that save time, result in better decisions, and assure that all interest groups are satisfactorily involved.

Conferences and Seminars

The Center conducts national and regional conferences and seminars on critical land use topics. Each December the Center hosts its annual Alfred B. DelBello Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Conference. The conference attracts more than 250 attorneys, business professionals, and local leaders to learn about national, regional, and local innovations, challenges, and best practices.

In the spring, the Center, in partnership with the Housing Action Council, hosts an annual Housing Summit for planners, advocates, developers, government officials to explore best practices, lessons learned and available resources for increasing and improving affordable housing.

Publications and Web Site Services

The Center’s community outreach is grounded in student and staff research, publication, and facilitation.  The Center has written three books on land use topics for a national audience, all published by the Environmental Law Institute, and fourteen guidebooks on specific land use issues for local leaders and their professional advisers in New York.  Its electronic library, available through this web page, is known as the Gaining Ground Database and contains thousands of pages of research papers and resources on nearly all topics of concern to local leaders.