Legislation proposed at the Capitol provides more time for communities to develop comprehensive plans. State Senator Pat Kreitlow said some communities have still not developed comprehensive plans as required under the state’s “smart growth” law – and sometimes that’s a problem. “As has happened in my district, in a township that didn’t have a plan, a strip club goes up. And now all of a sudden they’re saying ‘we’ve got to get rid of this.’ Well you could have if you’d had a plan in place, but it’s too late now.”
State lawmakers in 1999 enacted a law (PDF) requiring Wisconsin counties, municipalities and towns by January 1, 2010, adopt comprehensive plans (the bill was never officially refered to as “smart growth.”) Plans are mandated for local governments which have ordinances relating to zoning and subdivision development. Some local governments failed to reach that deadline, so Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls) and state Representative Mary Hubler (D-Rice Lake), have introduced legislation which clarifies the original the law, and extends the deadline to January 1, 2012, for local governments still making a good faith effort to complete their plans.
Tom Larson is with the Wisconsin Realtors Association, which supported the original bill and comprehensive plans, which Larson describes as guides to economic development. “They decide where we’re going to work, where we’re going to live, where we’re going to play.” said Larson. “And it provides blueprint for developers, for property owners, for community residents, to figure out what land uses are going to go where.” In addition to the Realtors, the bill (SB 601) also has the support of the Wisconsin Builders Association, and the environmental group 1000 Friends of Wisconsin.
Kreitlow noted that there has been some political resistance to comprehensive planning, where local elected officials have viewed the law as a “power grab” by Madison. “Comprehensive planning has nothing to do with the state giving a blessing, or telling you what you can or can’t do,” said Kreitlow. “It is in fact the local government making their own decision with their own input.”
Steve Hinniker with 1000 Friends of Wisconsin cited the example of a town in Western Wisconsin that could benefit from the extension. The town board, said Hiniker, refused for years to move forward with a plan. “Now they have a brand new town board that is completely committed to the requirement to complete a comprehensive plan, and this legislation would allow them to do it,” Hinniker said.
Bob Hague reports (:65 MP3) AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (:65 MP3)