Rules for Missouri Townships
A township may, with voter approval, adopt planning, zoning or both, except in counties that have adopted county planning, zoning or both (65.650-.700). Adoption must be put before the voters upon presentation of petitions with registered voter signatures totaling 5 percent of the last gubernatorial vote in the township. Abolishing a program that has been adopted goes before voters with the same number of signatures.
The purpose of either planning, zoning, or planning and zoning, is to bring about coordination of development in "accordance with the present and future needs," the statutes say. Regulations on the use of land, except for agricultural purposes, can be part of the program. Permits for non-farm construction may be required.
Limitations and exemptions
Most planning and zoning programs include provisions that relate to protection of public health and safety. However, one township that tried to use such provisions was challenged in court and lost the case. The Missouri Supreme Court held that townships have no public health and/or public safety protection authority. Premium Standard Farms, Inc., Appellant-Respondent, v. Lincoln Township of Putnam County and Dana Mathes, Respondents-Appellants, 79107 (1997). For more information, go to www.courts.mo.gov.
Regulations cannot interfere with utility services. Any regulations adopted apply only in unincorporated parts of the township. No regulation or requiring of permits is allowed "with respect to land, used or to be used for the raising of crops, orchards or forestry" (65.677). Neither can these cover buildings or structures used for farm purposes. Still left unanswered is whether the code can cover livestock operations. Most codes adopted try to deal with this through setback minimums. None have yet been challenged in court.
Funding is the major limit on any such program. While permit fees may be charged, they are generally insufficient to finance much of a code enforcement program. Other money must come from township general revenues, with no additional levy authority provided. Most of the functioning programs rely heavily on voluntary cooperation and unpaid community service efforts.