A bill proposed in the state Assembly would allow communities to scrap their land use plans if they wanted to do so.
Current law requires that land use plans be consistent with a municipality's comprehensive plan. Ordinances that would be affected would include: official mapping, local subdivision regulation and zoning ordinances. If a municipality creates or alters a current ordinance, the comprehensive plan has to include the required planning elements.
However, if AB 303 were made into law, it would allow communities to discontinue comprehensive planning if they wanted to, even if they already have one on file.
The bill was introduced by Mary Williams (R-Medford) and Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) and has the support from a number of other assembly members on Oct. 5 and a public hearing was held Oct. 11.
Proponents of the bill said allowing communities to opt out of land use planning is necessary to allow municipalities to respond quicker to development proposals and avoid planning costs.
Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) said it's a bad idea for communities to opt out of smart growth planning because it's a tool that allows municipalities to better attract businesses and families.
"Every municipality in Wisconsin is competing with savvy communities elsewhere that use smart growth planning," he said. "If you look at a list of the Top 10 places to live, work and play, each one of them has a strategic plan in place to become a destination community for businesses and families."
But local residents in Caledonia who were part of the development of the land use plan said the document is necessary to preserve Caledonia's rural character and it encourage citizens to become more invested in their community.
"It's not fair for one business or developer to come in and change everything, they just shouldn't have that right," said Wendy McCalvy, a former Village Board member and proponent of land use planning.
For example, when Walmart announced plans to build a store on the corner of Four Mile Road and Highway 31 earlier this year, residents living near the area pointed to the land use plan and said, it's not consistent with the zoning called for in the land use plan because the area is zoned residential. The land use plan is one of several elements that make up the Village's comprehensive plan. And, in order for Walmart to forward, the land use plan would have had to been changed to become a permitted use.
The Village had started to review its land use plan this summer, but they decided to look at a number of areas, not just Highway 31. They then decided to put it on hold until they received a report from Ehlers and Associates, a financial planning advisor.
Kevin Wanggaard, a Village Board member, said he hasn’t read enough about the proposed law to make a decision on the issue.
Kathy Burton, a Village Board member, said she didn’t think opting out of land use planning was a good thing because of all of the work that had already done.
“The argument that I had in changing the land use plan, starting with Highway 31, was because if we don’t just focus on one area, they’ll never do anything. And that pretty much came to fruition because they are doing nothing,” Burton said.