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Local Land Use in the Capital Region

Local Land Use in the Capital Region

In preparation for the Regional Development Plan update, Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) staff reviewed the current land use goals identified in the region’s local comprehensive plans. The following summary describes the broad themes and sentiments of the land use goals adopted in 56 Capital Region town, village, and city comprehensive plans. 

Many sets of goals use the same or similar language to describe shared values, likely due at least in part to the fact that many communities used state and county comprehensive planning goals to guide local goal creation. Four of the most common themes are sustainability, balance, community character, and agricultural preservation. Community character in particular is the focus of many local goals; the Village of Blue Mounds, for example, references community character in three of its four land use goals. The collective focus on community character makes sense given the Dane County Comprehensive Plan’s goal to “plan and develop land uses to create or preserve varied and unique urban and rural communities.”  

Other Dane County Comprehensive Plan goals commonly echoed in local plans include promoting efficient development patterns, striving to keep government service and utility costs low, meeting existing and future demand, and protecting natural areas. Beyond goals inspired by higher level plans, many of the region’s communities’ value high quality, well-planned development achieved through design guidelines and development standards. Efficiency is another widely held objective, be it economic efficiency, efficient service provision, or efficient development patterns. 

Some goals are more commonly adopted by certain community types, with noticeable differences between urban and rural communities. More urbanized cities and villages are more likely to reference walkability and compact, contiguous development or infill/redevelopment, while smaller or more rural communities are more likely to express a preference for single-family residential neighborhoods. Goals commonly espoused by townships include ag preservation, minimizing conflict with neighboring jurisdictions and between land uses, and limiting development to planned development areas; these goals are not typically found in city or village comprehensive plans.  

Tourism, mineral extraction, and parks and recreation were some relatively unique topics referenced by only handful of plans. Few goals discussed transportation, including roads, transit, biking, and walking. Although this may initially seem surprising given the close relationship between land use and transportation, it is likely because most plans have a specific set of transportation goals. Some of the most unique local land use goals are listed below: 

  • Permit landowners to use available splits on their land (Town of Cross Plains) 
  • Reduce the threat of annexation from Edgerton (Town of Albion) 
  • Participate in local and regional planning efforts to achieve a well-planned regional land use pattern (Town of Dunn) 
  • The community’s primary entrance corridors will be attractive and inviting (Waunakee/Westport) 
  • The development process will be clear and predictable for all participants (Waunakee/Westport) 

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