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Regional Plans

Regional plans help communities collaborate and align local plans and policies towards shared regional goals. Regional coordination and intergovernmental collaboration will be particularly important as our region expands to accommodate an estimated 200,000 additional people over the next 30 years.

In the greater Madison region, regional planning responsibilities are divided up across several different agencies. While the resulting “regional plan” is not a single document, CARPC and other agencies work together integrate our planning and implementation processes.


The Capital Area RPC is primarily responsible for preparing and maintaining land use and water quality plans for the Dane County region.

Land Use. State statutes charge regional planning commissions with “the function and duty of making and adopting a master plan for the physical development of the region.” The Dane County Regional Planning Commission’s 1997 Vision 2020: Dane County Land Use and Transportation Plan fulfilled this requirement for over 20 years.

In 2022, the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission adopted the 2050 Regional Development Framework as the region’s advisory land use guide. The 2050 Framework draws on public priorities, local government input, and growth projections to establish goals, objectives, and strategies for accommodating future growth in the Dane County region. Communities, other regional entities, and private sector partners can use the Framework as a guide for incorporating these big picture elements into local decisions.

Water Quality. The Regional Planning Commission works to protect, improve and enhance water quality by implementing and updating the Dane County Water Quality Plan.

The plan consists of a Summary Plan and technical appendices. It provides a policy framework and guidance for state and local water quality protection programs. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources adopts the plan as part of areawide water quality management planning under state administrative code NR 121 and the federal Clean Water Act.

A key component of the plan is to identify urban service area and environmental corridor boundaries, which may be amended to reflect changes in land use plans.

Other components of the complete Dane County Water Quality Plan include:

  • Groundwater Protection Planning Framework (2017) View PDF
  • Point Source Inventory and Analysis (2017) View PDF
  • Surface Water Conditions (2014) View PDF
  • Private On-Site Waste Water Treatment Systems Management (2013) View PDF
  • Urban Nonpoint Source Analysis (2011) View PDF

Additional supporting documents produced by the Dane County Regional Planning Commission prior to 2007 are available upon request.

Other Regional Plans

Regional Transportation Plan (Greater Madison MPO). The Greater Madison MPO serves as the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Madison area, which includes most, but not all, of Dane County. The MPO’s Connect Greater Madison Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) for 2050 guides future transportation policy and investments for the region. Different levels of government use the plan to coordinate transportation projects. Prepared in conjunction with CARPC’s 2050 Regional Development Framework, the RTP focuses on similar goals, uses the same growth projections, and shares many performance indicators with the Framework.

Climate Action Plan (Dane County). The Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change’s Today’s Opportunity for a Better Tomorrow: 2020 Dane County Climate Action Plan (CAP) sets forth climate goals for the county and lays out programs, policies, and projects that will help us meet them. The CAP is a roadmap to determine how to best to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Land and Water Resources Management Plan (Dane County). The plan guides the activities of the Land & Water Resources Department in its efforts to protect and improve the natural resources of Dane County. The plan addresses soil and water quality concerns and develops an implementation plan for integrating local, state, and federal conservation programs.

Farmland Preservation Plan (Dane County). The plan guides farmland preservation activities, including zoning, conservation easements, grant making, and other policies. It meets the requirements of the Wisconsin Farmland Preservation Program, enabling farmers to access income tax credits for meeting soil and water conservation standards.

Parks and Open Space Plan (Dane County). The plan guides preservation of key cultural, natural, and historic resources that enhance quality of life. It also identifies recreation and park land needs over a five-year time frame. The plan meets the requirements of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ State Stewardship funds.

Health Planning (Public Health Madison & Dane County). The Community Health Needs Assessment appraises the overall health of people in the region by reviewing risk factors, quality of life, mortality, morbidity, and access to health care. The Healthy Dane Collaborative of public health agencies and providers developed the assessment to establish priorities for community health and to develop, implement, and evaluate community health programming.

Economic Development (Madison Region Economic Partnership). The Advance Now 2.0 Strategy is the Madison Region’s comprehensive economic development strategy for the years 2019-2024. Through implementation of Advance Now 2.0, MadREP and its public and private sector partners strategically position the region to take advantage of and grow economic opportunities.

Utility Planning. The greater Madison region contains numerous municipal utilities that each plan for and provide services. Regional collaboration is essential to the equitable use of resources and the efficient provision of utility services. There are 15 municipal wastewater treatment plants, 27 municipal water utilities, as well as private and public gas and electric utilities.

Education Planning. There are many educational institutions and school districts that separately implement plans to educate students, locate and construct schools, and transport students and staff. These 27 public school districts range in size from Evansville to the Madison Metropolitan School District, in addition to 39 private schools and 8 colleges and universities.

Local Comprehensive Planning. Regional planning is most effective when local and regional plans are consistent, especially where communities coordinate land uses along their borders. Each of the 61 units of local government prepares its own comprehensive plan. They include the following elements: issues and opportunities; land use; transportation; economic development; housing; utilities and community facilities; agricultural, natural and cultural resources; intergovernmental cooperation; and implementation as required by the Wisconsin Comprehensive Planning law, Wis. Stat. § 66.1001.