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What is a Comprehensive Plan?


Send Notice of Comp Plan Adoption/Amendment To:


Wisconsin Comprehensive Planning Legislation
Comprehensive Planning Law (s.66.1001)
2015 Wisconsin Act 391: Consistency Revisited  
Analysis and Explanation of Act 372 of 2010 
Comprehensive Planning Law Features and Benefits  

About Comprehensive Plans
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 nine elements below as defined by the Comprehensive Planning Law and described in Element Guides.

  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

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, or zoning ordinance, the enactment or amendment ordinance must be consistent with that community's comprehensive plan. State statutes also call for consistency with the local comprehensive plan in several other areas, as described in this article.

To view a list of comprehensive plans adoption dates as reported to the Department of Administration, please browse our Library of Plans.


Notification to the Department of Administration of Plan Adoptions, Updates, and Amendments
If your community has adopted a comprehensive plan or amendment, send notification of the adoption date and which entity prepared the plan to with indication as to whether it is for an original plan adoption, comprehensive update, or amendment. It is *NOT* necessary to mail a hard copy of the plan to the Department of Administration, nor an email attachment. The Department of Administration is no longer archiving copies of local comprehensive plans. However, it does still maintain a record of dates for communities that have adopted/amended plans.