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What is a Regional Planning Commission?

Regional planning commissions across the United States, and in Missouri as well, are known by a variety of names, including councils of government, regional planning commissions, areawide planning organizations, economic development districts, and area development districts. Regardless of their name, there are several basic and fundamental similarities among the organizations. All have been formed by local government in one manner or another. All must have operating budgets in order to be able to function. All must have staff in order to provide for the work that is directed to them by their member governments, collectively or individually, and by various state and federal agencies with which the agency contracts under authority of the board of directors and their membership. In Missouri, regional planning commissions are advisory In nature, and county and municipal governments hold membership on a voluntary basis.

Typically, regional planning commissions address a broad cross-section of issues, including comprehensive planning; economic development, including marketing, industrial park development, operation of revolving loan funds, and coordination with industrial prospects and various agencies and organizations involved In economic development. Most regional planning commissions deal with infrastructural issues, such as public water supply; sanitary sewage collection and treatment; planning for various modes of transportation, including local streets and roads, highways, airports, port development, as appropriate, mass transit, and in some instances, rail. Regional planning commissions are also, from time to time, involved in park, recreational and open space planning and issues; development of various ordinances, such as subdivision regulations, zoning ordinances, mobile home park ordinances and the like; coordination of programs on behalf of county and municipal members with state and federal agencies; solid waste planning; hazardous waste planning; stormwater damage and flood control, including the National Flood Insurance Program; working for Improved educational and training facilities; manpower planning and job training issues; health and health facilities needs; and planning for compatible land usage. Most regional planning commissions also prepare grant applications for implementation of various capital improvements and initiation of various programs. Numerous regional planning commissions also assist county and municipal government in administration of grants-in-aid. Some regional planning commissions are also involved in agricultural issues, housing development, and provision of a variety of direct services under an agreed upon basis with member units of government. A number of regional councils provide mapping and drafting services for their memberships.

The role of the regional planning commission or council of government varies in each region, depending upon the desires of the member counties and municipalities and their representatives. Nonetheless, the prime role of the regional planning commission is to provide a technical staff I capable to providing sound advice to its membership and to work for coordination of various planning and infrastructural needs among the various counties and municipalities, as appropriate. Many regional planning commissions/councils of government conduct a considerable amount of research as a matter of course in their day-to-day operations and often have a considerable amount of data and information available for use by their members and citizens of the region. A number of the regional planning commissions in Missouri serve as repositories for census data under an agreement with the Missouri State Library and its Data Affiliate Program. Most of the regional planning commissions have a small technical and planning library which also houses a wealth of data and information about their respective regions and, perhaps, a broader area.

Most of the rural regional planning commissions In Missouri were formed under Chapter 251 of the Revised Statutes Of the State of Missouri. Some are incorporated separately as not-for-proflt corporations, and yet others, particularly in the metropolitan areas, were formed by interstate compact or other incorporating methods. Several of the regional planning commissions, notably East-West Gateway Coordination Council, Mid-America Regional Council and Mo-Kan Regional Council, serve as bi-state regional planning groups for their respective areas. All regional councils in Missouri operate on a not-for-profit basis.

The regional planning commissions across the State of Missouri provide an effective way for local governments to work together to address common problems and to share technical staff for problems that cross border lines or boundaries and need an areawide approach. They also can effectively deliver programs which cannot be afforded on an individualized basis by county and municipal governments, but can be afforded on a collective basis where all share staff and/or resources. The intent of the regional planning commissions in Missouri is to be of service to their member counties and municipalities and to bring an organized approach to addressing a broad cross-section of areawide problems. They also are available to assist their member entities in coordinating the needs of the area with state and federal agencies or with private companies or other public bodies.

Also see: About MACOG | Services Provided by Missouri RPCs