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What is a Comprehensive Plan?


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Comprehensive Planning Statutes   
Act 372 (amendment to Comprehensive Planning Law enacted May 18, 2010) 
Analysis and Explanation of Act 372 
Comprehensive Planning Law Features and Benefits 

What is a comprehensive plan?
A comprehensive plan is a local government's guide to community physical, social, and economic development. Comprehensive plans are not meant to serve as land use regulations in themselves; instead, they provide a rational basis for local land use decisions with a twenty-year vision for future planning and community decisions. 

The Wisconsin Comprehensive Planning Law does not mandate how a local community should grow, but it requires public participation at the local level in deciding a vision for the community's future. The uniqueness of individual comprehensive plans reflects community-specific and locally driven planning processes.     

While a local government may choose to include additional elements, a comprehensive plan must include AT LEAST all of the below nine elements as defined by the Comprehensive Planning Law.

  1. Issues and Opportunities
  2. Housing
  3. Transportation
  4. Utilities and Community Facilities
  5. Agricultural, Natural and Cultural Resources
  6. Economic Development
  7. Intergovernmental Cooperation
  8. Land Use 
  9. Implementation

Element guides are available online.

The law provides flexibility to local governments in addressing statutory requirements. Many communities choose to connect specific objectives, policies, and programs from throughout their comprehensive plan to responsible parties and timeframes in the implementation element, so that their hard work does not collect dust on a shelf. A central aspect of implementation is exercising land use regulation authorities. According to s. 66.1001, beginning on January 1, 2010, if a town, village, city, or county enacts or amends an official mapping, subdivision regulation, or zoning ordinance, the enactment or amendment ordinance must be consistent with that community's comprehensive plan.

To view a list of comprehensive plans submitted to the Department of Administration, please browse our library of comprehensive plans.

The Department of Administration administers a grant program to assist communities in the development of comprehensive plans. An emphasis is placed on multi-jurisdictional projects that foster intergovernmental cooperation.