Local Government Training

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Revised 10/27/11
James A. Coon Local Government Technical Series
Plus other Land Use and Local Governance Publications & Resources

General Local Government  Top »

Adopting and Amending County Charters (PDF, 22 pgs)
This publication explores why counties might choose to adopt charters; what the county charter must do, may do, and may not do; and the process of implementing a county charter or changes to an existing charter.

Adopting Local Laws in New York State (PDF, 31 pgs)
This guide provides plain language, step-by-step requirements to draft and adopt a local law. Provides useful information on the scope of the home-rule power. Valuable for the municipal clerk and attorney.

Conducting Public Meetings and Public Hearings (PDF, 18 pgs)
This document, published in cooperation with the Tug Hill Commission, provides a review of the procedures governing public meetings and hearings. Published in cooperation with the Tug Hill Commission.

Local Government Handbook (PDF, 186 pgs)
This handbook is an authoritative source of information about the origins and operations of the Empire State, including a brief history and overview of federal, state, and local government and describing their evolving relationships, structures, and functions.

Revising City Charters (PDF, 21 pgs)
This document describes in detail the legal methods and requirements of revising a city charter, and provides statistical data and technical guidance for charter committee members and staff.


Building Code & Property Maintenance  Top »

Administration and Enforcement of the Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code and the Energy Conservation Construction Code (PDF, 28 pgs)
This publication provides an overview of the designation of responsibility of enforcement of Uniform Fire Prevention and Building code. It includes a sample local law.

Controlling Junk (PDF, 46 pgs)
This manual, published in cooperation with the Tug Hill Commission, contains municipal options for controlling junk motor vehicles as well as other household debris. It includes a discussion of state laws regulating junk, as well as sample language for the adoption of local junkyard and junk storage laws.

Legal Memoranda  Top »

Planning & Land Use Regulation  Top »

Adopting Zoning for the First Time (PDF, 20 pgs)
This publication explains the procedure for establishing a municipality's first zoning regulations, from the creation of a zoning commission to the publication of a summary of the zoning ordinance or filing of the zoning law with the Secretary of State.

Creating the Community You Want: Municipal Options for Land Use Control (PDF, 22 pgs)
This publication summarizes the various land use management tools which New York State municipalities can use to help deal with issues of community character and change.

Governmental Immunity from Zoning (PDF, 4 pgs)
This document presents the nine factors which must be examined to determine whether it is in the public interest to subject a particular action of a governmental unit to local land use regulations.

Guidelines for Applicants to the Zoning Board of Appeals (PDF, 5 pgs)
This document explains the rules and standards under which appeals may be taken to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and decisions made by the ZBA.

Guide to Planning and Zoning Laws of New York State (PDF,197 pgs)
This essential publication is for municipal officials, attorneys, and planning boards. It has the complete text of relevant laws, including statutory changes from the 2010 Legislative Session.

Land Use Moratoria (PDF file,21 pgs)
Moratorium laws temporarily suspend development approvals. This document describes situations in which moratoria are often used, the case law surrounding moratoria, and provides guidance for the drafting of a moratorium law.

Local Open Space Planning Guide (PDF, 72 pgs)
This guide is a collaborative project of the Departments of State and Environmental Conservation. It sets forth a simple, step-by-step process for preparing a local open space conservation plan; and recommends specific strategies and techniques for conserving open space.

Municipal Control of Signs (PDF, 78 pgs)
This publication examines significant court cases involving signs and constitutional rights, focusing on legitimate exercises of municipal sign control. It also reviews the processes of planning and adopting a local law to regulate signs, and provides sample local law language.

Municipal Regulation of Manufactured Homes (PDF, 21 pgs)
This document provides an overview of municipal authority to regulate the placement of manufactured homes.

Questions for the Analysis and Evaluation of Existing Zoning Regulations (PDF, 9 pgs)
This document provides a list of questions intended to assist communities in determining whether their existing zoning regulations are out of date or otherwise inadequate to meet the demands of present conditions.

Record Keeping Tips for Zoning Administration (PDF, 14 pgs)
This publication, created by the Tug Hill Commission, provides tips on managing zoning-related paperwork. Model review procedure forms are provided.

Senior Housing Regulations Two Model Laws (PDF, 37 pgs)
This publication offers local governments two model local laws designed to increase the supply of affordable, high quality housing choices for seniors, individuals with permanent disabilities, and their caregivers. The model laws are illustrative only and should be adapted to meet the unique circumstances of the community.

Site Plan Review (PDF, 28 pgs)
This publication discusses submission requirements, review standards and development considerations. It includes section 274(a) of Town Law, illustrative plan regulations, a sample application and design review methodology.

Subdivision Review in New York State (PDF, 97 pgs)
Subdivision of land is what drives growth and development in a community. This publication explores the many aspects of the statutory process of subdivision review in New York State, including provisions for infrastructure and open spaces within the subdivision, as well as the various options for subdivision design and the effects those design approaches have on the function of the subdivision and surrounding community.  

Zoning Board of Appeals (PDF, 46 pgs)
This booklet gives the legal framework for understanding the powers and duties of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Includes all statutory changes through the 2005 Legislative Session.

Zoning and the Comprehensive Plan (PDF, 18 pgs)
This document explains the legal relationship between the comprehensive plan and municipal zoning regulations.

Zoning Enforcement (PDF, 36 pgs)
The zoning enforcement process, including options for enforcement and sample forms. Published in cooperation with the Tug Hill Commission and others.

Resource Protection  Top »

Legal Aspects of Municipal Historic Preservation (PDF ,15 pgs)
This publication provides an overview of municipal regulatory authority in state statute and case law to preserve local historic resources.

Local Laws and Agricultural Districts: How Do They Relate? (PDF, 13 pgs)
This document provides guidance to municipalities in the preparation of local laws or ordinances so that they do not impact farming activities that are conducted within agricultural districts established pursuant to Article 25-AA of the Agriculture and Markets Law.

SEQR Handbook/SEQR and Local Government
The SEQR Handbook, produced by The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, provides a practical reference guide to the procedures prescribed by the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR). SEQR establishes a process to systematically consider environmental factors early in the planning stages of actions that are directly undertaken, funded or approved by local, regional and state agencies. The Handbook starts with an introduction to the basic SEQR process and moves on to discussions of important procedural and substantive details.

“SEQR and Local Government” consists of a series of questions—with answers—often posed by members of review boards about the applicability of SEQR in the context of local government actions and review.

Transfer of Development Rights (PDF, 17 pgs)
This publication discusses the process and benefits for municipalities to implement Transfer of Development Rights (TDR), an effective and flexible land use tool. Commonly used for open space and farmland preservation, TDR can also be used to protect other natural and environmental.

Local Government Efficiency  Top »

Local Government Efficiency Grant Program Reports
This report documents significant accomplishments made by the Department of State and its local government partners since the inception of the Shared Services Program, a program providing grants and technical assistance to local governments.

2005-2007 Progress Report
2008-2009 Annual Report
(PDF, 18 pgs)
2009-2010 Annual Report (PDF, 24 pgs)

The Reorganization of Local Government (PDF, 4 pages)
A short summary and flow chart of the process for the Voter-Initiated and Board-Initiated Local Government Reorganization under the “New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act”.

The New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act (PDF, 42 pages)
The “New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act” establishes uniform procedures for the consolidation or dissolution of local government. The new procedures apply to the consolidation and dissolution of towns, villages, fire districts, fire protection districts, fire alarm districts, special improvement districts or other improvement districts, library districts, and other districts created by law. It does not include school districts, city districts or special purpose districts created by counties under county law. This publication presents the new and amended sections of law in one convenient place.

The New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act:  A Summary of the Process for Consolidation and Dissolution (PDF, 21 pages)
The “New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act” establishes uniform procedures for the consolidation or dissolution of local government. The law provides that the process of consolidation or dissolution may be initiated by either the governing bodies or by a petition of voters of the local government. This publication summarizes the procedures that must be followed, with relevant sections of the General Municipal Law referenced in brackets.

The Citizen’s Guide to Petitioning for Local Government Consolidation or Dissolution (PDF, 15 pages)
This guide provides information on how citizens may petition their governments for a referendum on municipal consolidation or dissolution. It explains who may sign and circulate petitions, what the petition must contain, and what happens to the petition once it is filed with the municipal clerk. See also “The New N.Y. Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act:  A Summary of the Process for Consolidation and Dissolution.”

Implications of a Village Dissolution (PDF, 23 pgs)
This document, prepared by the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board, assesses the financial feasibility of dissolving the Village of Cherry Creek into the Town of Cherry Creek conducted pursuant to Village Law Article 19.

Intergovernmental Cooperation (PDF, 19 pgs)
This document provides practical suggestions, ideas and information to municipalities considering partnerships to provide services.

Local Government Management Guide: Intermunicipal Cooperation » (NYS OSC)

Intermunicipal Cooperation and Consolidation: Exploring Opportunities for Savings and Improved Service Delivery (PDF, 32 pgs)
This report, produced by the Office of the State Comptroller, reviews policy issues relating to cooperation and consolidation; assesses current activity levels in New York State; offers strategies for collaboration; and makes several recommendations designed to encourage cooperative efforts.

The Legal Framework for Providing Local Government Services
This resource, developed by the NYS Legislative Commission on State-Local Relations, in cooperation with the Association of Towns, The NYS Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials, The Association of Counties and the Government Law Center at Albany Law School, provides constitutional and statutory authority; selected court cases; and the opinion of the State Comptroller and Attorney General for key areas of local government structure, from the creation, consolidation and dissolution of local governments, to the provision of particular services from animal control to zoning.

Local Government Dissolution Documents
The LGE Program has assembled a collection of dissolution studies, plans, propositions and other related documents. Some of these documents were funded by a Department of State grant.

Local Government Management Guide: Intermunicipal Cooperation (PDF, 32 pgs)
This guide, prepared by the Office of the State Comptroller, provides the legal authority for cooperative ventures and guidance on how to initiate and sustain such efforts.

Sample Intermunicipal Agreements
The Shared Services program has identified several intermunicipal agreements (IMAs) that municipalities may find useful in the development of their own shared services initiative. Agreements are categorized by topic area.

Shared Services Case Studies
The Shared Services program has funded several case studies relating to shared services and municipal merger which can serve as a learning tool for municipalities considering similar activities.

General Shared Services Case Studies
Joint Municipal Facilities Case Studies
Dissolutions and Consolidations Case Studies
Environmental Infrastructure Case Studies

Shared Enforcement of the Uniform Code and Energy Code
This document provides a guide to increasing efficiency by sharing code enforcement responsibilities.

Shared Enforcement of the Uniform Code and Energy Code or (PDF, 12 pgs)
Sample County-Municipality Agreement or (PDF, 4 pgs)
Multi-Municipal Agreement or (PDF, 5 pgs)

Other Publications of Interest  Top »

Note: These publications and resources have not been produced by the New York State Department of State - Local Government Services. Outside links are provided for illustrative purposes only and do not have the approval or endorsement of the Department of State.

Duties and Functions of New York State's Local Government Historians (PDF, 6 pgs)
The position of historian for New York's local governments was established by law in 1919. The State Historian provides guidance and training to New York's local government historians, who preserve, interpret, and educate the public about local history. This publication describes the importance and the general role of the historian in the context of the functions of local governments, and the ideal skills of local government historians, who operate under Section 57.07 of the state’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Law.

Creating a Natural Resources Inventory
A Guide for Communities in the Hudson River Estuary Watershed was written to help municipalities pursue a natural resources inventory (NRI) by suggesting an approach, recommending components to include, explaining why they are important, and providing sources of data and assistance. Case studies from the Hudson Valley and strategies for using the NRI for local planning are included. The guide was designed for use by municipal and county officials, (e.g., conservation advisory councils and planning boards), conservation organizations, watershed associations, and interested citizens, and may also be useful to professional planners, consultants, and developers.

Government, Law and Policy Journal, Winter 2007, Volume 9, Number 2, NYS Bar Association
This issue contains articles that provide insight into the processes and tools for change in how municipalities provide services. The articles present several different perspectives: state and local government; legislative and executive branch; and academic and practitioner.

Download Excerpt: "The Framework for Municipal Cooperation and Sharing Services" by Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez (PDF, 3 pgs)

A Guide to Planned Unit Development (PDF, 16 pgs)
This guide, prepared by the NYS Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, instructs municipalities on how they might use planned unit developments (PUDs) to reinforce and achieve community goals and priorities. Included is a model local law for the establishment of a PUD and review of PUD applications, as well as a discussion of when and how to use PUDs.

Handbook on the Alienation and Conversion of Municipal Parkland (PDF,  65 pgs)
This handbook, prepared by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, presents the  process and the deliberations involved in the change of use of municipal parkland and open space. It explains the two procedures that may be triggered when a municipality wishes to change the way it uses parkland, (1) parkland alienation (when a municipality wishes to sell, lease, or discontinue municipal parkland) and (2) parkland conversion (when a municipality wishes to sell or otherwise convey funded parkland to another entity, or if the funded park will cease to be used for public outdoor recreation).

Land Use Planning & Regulations A Survey of New York State Municipalities (PDF, 156 pgs)
This report quantifies the types of basic land use and regulatory tools--including zoning, site plan review, subdivision regulations, and written comprehensive plans--used by the 1,544 city, town, and village governments in New York State. County and town population maps are also included, along with other basic information about county and regional planning agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, and other organizations involved with land use planning, development, and preservation in New York State.

Make Room for Wildlife (PDF, 7 pgs)
This pamphlet, produced by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program, will help municipalities in the Adirondacks and in other rural areas consider wildlife in developing land-use plans and reviewing development proposals. Habitat loss and fragmentation are two of the most significant threats facing wildlife species in the Adirondacks and elsewhere. Although the state lands of the Adirondack Park protect large expanses of habitat, many animals require or prefer habitats found on privately-owned land.

Municipal Service Alternatives: Villages of Carthage and West Carthage (PDF, 190 pgs)
This document, prepared by the Tug Hill Commission, examines the range of alternatives for the two villages as they consider the delivery of services to their residents. Services considered include general administration, fire, police, highway, housing, water and wastewater, planning and zoning, building code, recreation, and economic development.

New York State Statutes and Legislation
The NYS Legislature provides online links to NYS laws, legislation introduced in the Senate and Assembly, bills signed by the Governor (Chapters), bills rejected by the Governor (Vetos), and legislative resolutions.

Planning and Design Manual for the Review of Applications for Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (PDF, 64 pgs)
This publication, produced by the town of Pittsford under a grant administered by the Department of State, provides guidance to municipalities on how to handle applications for wireless communications facilities. It explains how wireless (cellular) communications works, reviews federal guidelines, gives environmental and design review tips, and provides model local laws that your community can adapt for its particular situation.

Promoting Intermunicipal Cooperation for Shared Highway Services (PDF, 32 pgs)
This publication, prepared by the NYS Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, provides a sample resolution for use by local governing bodies to authorize the sharing of machinery, maintenance and equipment, and lending or borrowing of materials and supplies. It also offers a sample memorandum which may be used by highway officials when equipment is rented or loaned or material is exchanged or borrowed pursuant to such authorization.

The Rural Design Workbook: Rethinking Conventional Development
This workbook is an easy-to-use collection of real-life development designs and recommended land use language for use by municipal planning boards as they review subdivision and site plan proposals. It was developed by the Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board in conjunction with Cornell University's Landscape Architecture program.

Statewide Assessment of Local Government Technology and Data Management Capabilities (PDF, 87 pgs)
This is the final report of a group of students from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs on a research project they conducted as part of their Masters of Public Administration studies under sponsorship of the Office of Local Government. They analyzed survey results and conducted follow-up interviews with local officials across the state to prepare a high level assessment of how local governments are using data and what they need to utilize it more effectively.

Stormwater Management Design Manual
A general overview on how to size, design, select, and locate stormwater management practices at a development site to comply with State stormwater performance standards. This manual has been prepared by the Center for Watershed Protection for New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Stormwater Management Guidance Manual for Local Officials
This manual, developed by the Department of State and Department of Environmental Conservation, provides information useful to local officials involved in stormwater management, whether in a regulated MS4 or in a community or institution that is not subject to the state/federal stormwater management rules. Tables and checklists provide easy-to-use analysis tools.

New York State Wind Energy Guidebook
The Wind Energy Guidebook assists local decision makers and other community members prepare for and understand wind energy development. The sections provide objective information on wind energy basics and the processes, regulations, and other important considerations involved in siting wind farms.

Your Right to Know: New York's Open Government Laws
Produced by the Committee on Open Government, this publication provides information about the Freedom of Information Law and Open Meetings Law. It includes sample letters.