Staying Cutting Edge with Centralina Learns

Local government staff across the Centralina region and beyond have more on their plates today than ever before. Between staffing shortages, communities that are still reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and wave after wave of unprecedented federal and state funding opportunities, many jurisdictions are stretched thin. Local staff are juggling multiple roles and responsibilities at once, all while ensuring their communities don’t miss out on historic opportunities to plan for enhanced mobility, increased sustainability and community and individual health. At the same time, near-constant innovations in technology, revelations around equity and social justice and turbulent social norms are continually redefining the landscape of planning and local government. How is a local planner to keep up?  

Enter Centralina Learns 

As a council of governments, Centralina Regional Council provides critical services and support to communities across the region, helping local staff stay abreast of new developments in the field and take advantage of unique opportunities. Amid the challenges facing local planners, zoning officials and administrators throughout FY23, Centralina created Centralina Learns to ensure local staff had the information they needed about “cutting edge” planning and administration topics, delivered in easily accessible formats to fit their increasingly busy schedules and continuously adapting communities.  

About the Program 

Centralina Learns is an annual program of educational seminars developed and hosted by Centralina Regional Council to suit the ever-changing needs of local government professionals. Centralina Regional Planning Department designs an annual curriculum specifically tailored to the timely and topical needs of local land-use and transportation planners, zoning officials, code enforcement officials and administrators. During FY23, the Centralina Regional Planning team collaborated with other Centralina departments and leaders from across our region and beyond to host seven impactful training sessions on critical topics.

  • Advanced Code Enforcement – Centralina partnered with N-Focus to offer this five-hour in-person training workshop, which covered sources of authority for ordinance enforcement and advanced topics like minimum housing standards and code for non-residential structures.  
  • Stormwater Management: Innovation & Best Practices – Regional experts on stormwater management facilitated a comprehensive discussion to introduce local government professionals to actionable strategies for implementing stormwater management best practices, from on-the-ground innovations to collaborative approaches.  
  • Transportation Demand Management (TDM) – This session convened local and national experts to discuss how TDM can be used as a tool for increasing the efficiency of existing transportation networks and providing people with more flexibility in how they move around their communities and regions. 
  • Affordable Housing & The Missing Middle – Designed to address the critical, timely matter of affordable housing in the Charlotte region and across North Carolina, this session provided local government staff with actionable next steps and adaptable strategies to address the housing crisis in their own communities. 
  • Transportation in a Post-Pandemic World – Showcasing innovative responses and adaptations to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on transportation from across the region, this session asked planners to envision how we can incorporate more flexibility and multi-modal perspectives into transportation planning and decision-making.  
  • Medical Marijuana: Planning for Legalization – This thought-provoking session brought together planners, administrators and healthcare professionals from across the nation to consider how North Carolina communities might respond to new land use and regulatory considerations posed by the legalization of medical cannabis.  
  • Mobility, Energy & Environmental Justice – This powerful final session brought together a panel of experts on transportation equity and energy justice from the Centralina region and beyond to identify best practices local staff can implement to make environmental justice a reality in our communities.   

THE RESULTS 

Through the FY23 Centralina Learns curriculum, the Centralina Regional Planning team connected local government staff with 19 regional, state and national experts who shared their expertise and experiences to help move our region forward. An average of 25 participants attended each session, with 29 of Centralina’s member jurisdictions (46 percent) represented across FY23’s six virtual sessions and one in-person session. Centralina offered up to 14 AICP credits, including one Law credit, one Sustainability credit and one Equity credit, to planners across the region and beyond thanks to our continued partnership with APA North Carolina. In addition, all Centralina Learns sessions (from FY23 and prior years) are made available to Centralina member governments via the Centralina Member Portal, ensuring registered attendees can refer back to critical resources and topics later and staff of member governments can access the most current trainings whenever they have time available.   

CONCLUSION 

Centralina looks forward to continuing to enrich and inspire local government professionals across the region with our Centralina Learns curriculum in FY24. In response to feedback received throughout FY23, Centralina is also looking to hold more in-person training sessions in FY24, allowing local staff to maintain their professional education while also establishing critical connections with peers across the region. Details on how to register for the FY24 sessions will be shared soon,  but for now, see below and save the dates for the anticipated FY24 schedule of training sessions. We hope to see you at a training session this year!