Land Use Liability
Land Use Liability: Planning and Zoning Board Coverage
There has been a significant increase in suits against Planning and Zoning Boards alleging that their actions violate the civil rights. Currently, the maximum coverage commonly available from commercial insurers for land use liability is $1 million because insurers are concerned that legitimate applications have been rejected because of vocal resident opposition.
Therefore, it is critical that all planners and zoners receive training to prevent land use liability claims. The materials needed to conduct the training include a script for a one-hour program that can be presented by your land use or municipal attorney and PowerPoint slides. There is also an informational Land Use Liability Webinar for local officials. In addition, the Funds will conduct regional training. There is no online program available for credit at this time because the MEL wishes to encourage an interactive dialogue.
To encourage board members to take this training, the MEL has just created a special policy to protect them from many personal exposures that are excluded in commercial policies. There is no additional premium for this special policy. To qualify for this coverage, your land use or municipal attorney must file the attendance form with the MEL office. Planners and zoners can also attend the course in other area communities. After the first of the year, courses will be scheduled in the area for newly appointed members.
Fortunately, personal lawsuits against land use board members are rare. Under the new policy, when a board member is sued personally for their official actions and is not otherwise indemnified, the MEL will reimburse up to $50,000 (annual aggregate) for defense subject to the terms of the policy. This coverage will also contribute towards a defense in criminal court, but only if the public official is subsequently acquitted.
There is no deadline to complete this training except that the training must be completed before the date of any acts that give rise to a claim. In the future, the MEL will provide refresher training that must be completed to retain the coverage.
As you know, for the past 15 years the MEL has conducted a successful risk management training program that is attended by 1,500 local elected local officials each year. This new program for planners and zoners is an expansion of this concept.
For more information, or if you need a copy of your policy, please contact your local JIF Executive Director or the MEL office.