Center for Urban and Regional Analysis

A division of the L. Douglas Wilder School of government and Public affairs

CPC Program

About the program

LUEP is committed to the goal of offering the best possible training to those who give of their time and talent to make their communities better places in which to live, work and do business. 

A majority of LUEP registrants are planning commissioners (approximately 85%). Because our members face the pressures of accommodating growth in an appropriate manner, even though it often comes rapidly; we are keenly aware of their need for training and assistance. Such help and knowledge are essential to enable planning commissioners, boards of zoning appeals members, other public decision makers, and support personnel to properly make decisions. These public servants must meet their legal responsibilities, yet do so in a manner that will withstand legal challenges while earning the trust of those being served.

The Virginia Certified Planning Commissioners’ Program (CPC) which has received both state and national recognition and awards, is designed to provide the legal and technical background needed by citizen-planners and decision makers. The program covers the "what" and "why" of planning in Virginia in addition to reviewing the principals that guide the community planning process. Program participants will also learn how to handle and respond to the range of issues that come before a local planning commission. The techniques of making legally defensible planning and zoning decisions are literally built into the core of the course. Indeed, a growing number of planning commissions are insisting their members learn these techniques by requiring them to successfully complete this program within a reasonable period following their appointment or even as a prerequisite to their appointment.

Because the CPC program provides its students a thorough understanding of the legal background, the planning process and practices; many localities also find it to be excellent, invaluable and affordable training for elected officials. A growing number of localities are also requiring their administrative and support staff to complete the course as well because the process and procedures to make a proper and defensible planning decision must rest on a solid foundation, the construction of which begins at the administrative level.

The program is designed to provide a basic foundation of planning law, history, and to provide the technical expertise needed by planning commissioners to maximize their competency and ability to render legally defensible decisions and recommendations. This course is particularly important for planning commissioners whether they are newly appointed or are veteran commissioners who have never received formal training. The ever-growing and changing legislation which mandates and regulates the operation of planning programs and procedures makes training a necessity because the traditional on the job training is simply no longer adequate in the more technical, complex, and expensively litigious world of the 21st Century.

This training is also exceedingly helpful for elected officials, as well as others such as real estate persons, lawyers, builders and developers, engineers, architects and landscape architects. Moreover, members of citizen groups and community representatives, as well as anyone else who works with matters normally going before planning commissions for decisions will greatly benefit from the knowledge gained in this program.

Staff members serving planning commissions and elected officials are welcomed and encouraged to attend this program. It will provide them an invaluable foundation of general knowledge on which to build and improve their skills. They will not only be more knowledgeable about what their planning commission does, but what, why and how it must discharge its responsibilities.


What does it take to complete the program? 

In order to accommodate varying schedules, this certification program is presented several times each year— usually in early March, in June and again in September. A certificate is awarded to those who successfully complete all requirements.

The program is divided into sessions — two classroom and one home study session. 

The two-day opening session features classroom instruction from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM on the first day and from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM on the second day. This first session focuses on the principles and practices of planning, the planning process, the legal foundations for planning, planning commission duties and responsibilities, the tools of planning, and the job of the planning commissioner.

The concluding session also features two days of classroom instruction. The topics covered include principles of meeting management, communication skills, decision making skills, conflict management, principles of community visioning, creative thinking and leadership principles. 

Between the two classroom sessions, all students are required to read several books that are included in the registration fee and complete and submit a series of open-book tests and essays. Everyone is also required to attend a planning commission meeting in another locality and analyze and report on the meeting using an observation guide that is provided during the first session.

All instruction during the program is provided by a cadre of highly regarded, skilled professionals with considerable experience in their respective fields.

Certified BZA program

The Certified BZA (Board of Zoning Appeals) Program is designed to provide each registrant with a comprehensive overview of zoning in Virginia and the critical role the BZA plays in deciding issues involving zoning and zoning decisions. The course covers the legal foundations of zoning as well as the duties, powers and responsibilities of the BZA. The program also reviews the role of procedural and substantive due process in BZA deliberations as well as principles of meeting management and decision making. The course is especially valuable for newly appointed BZA members as well as zoning practitioners. Veteran members of local BZA's have also found the course to be of great value. This event is composed of two training sessions (opening and closing sessions) and a self-study component lasting 10 weeks. The self-study component includes required readings and homework assignments. Attending and critiquing a BZA meeting is also required.

Legal Seminar

This one day event focuses on major legislative actions passed by the Virginia General Assembly in the past year. Additionally, sessions offer in depth analysis and guidance on recent proffer legislation, and recent developments in Virginia's regional economic development programming. The program is designed to provide BZA members, planning commissioners, professional planners, and interested citizens with the most-timely and relevant information to guide their work on emerging issues.

Contact us

  • Phone: (804) 828-2292
  • Email:
  • Box 842028
    923 West Franklin Street
    Richmond, Virginia 23284

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