New “Smart Growth” Legislation


The State of Wisconsin recently passed “Smart Growth” legislation dealing with Comprehensive Planning and other planning related issues. Governor Thompson signed 1999 Wisconsin Act 9 into law last October. This legislation is intended to have communities make land use decisions that are consistent with a comprehensive plan. The State is giving cities, towns and villages until January 2010 to adopt a comprehensive plan. The legislation details what elements must be included in the plan and how the plan should be adopted. The elements include: land use, economic development, transportation, housing, issues and opportunities, intergovernmental cooperation, utilities and community facilities, natural and cultural resources, and implementation. By 2010, all land use decisions must be consistent with the comprehensive plan or they will be considered invalid.


 The Town of Menasha currently has a comprehensive plan, which was adopted in 1997, that addresses the required elements. Town staff and the Planning Commission refer to this document when making decisions involving land use. The Town does intend to update the Comprehensive Plan in 2001 to make sure that it complies with all the new state mandates. One of the key components in updating the plan will involve public participation.  Furthermore, the Town may be able to benefit from the early update of the Comprehensive Plan, since the State legislation includes a transportation grant and general planning grants. In addition, the legislation created a Dividend Aid Program, which financially rewards communities that develop higher density affordable housing. Therefore, there are incentives to update the Comprehensive Plan and be in compliance with the State “Smart Growth” legislation.


If you have any further questions about the new “Smart Growth” legislation, contact the Community Development Department at 720-7105.


                                          - Jeffrey Smith, Associate Planner