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Wisconsin State Journal

Smart Growth Law Helps in Land-use Planning
By State Senator Brian Burke

Brian Burke, a Milwaukee Democrat, is state Senate chairman of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee and wrote the Smart Growth legislation.

Rapid growth is changing the face of Wisconsin's landscape. While development creates new opportunities, it also can stir up a host of costly problems for communities and taxpayers.

By planning for change, communities can make the most of growth, seizing opportunities while avoiding many of the pitfalls. Fortunately, planning ahead just got easier. The Legislature has spelled out guidelines and created new incentives for planning. Smart Growth, as it is called, is now state law.

Smart Growth creates state incentives to supplement and leverage existing local governmental authority, not replace it.

Day-to-day decisions on where to build a new road, how big to make a subdivision and whether to give the downtown business district a facelift should be made by local people, while keeping broader community goals in mind.

Smart Growth encourages public participation and defines the essential elements of a comprehensive plan. Details will vary from place to place, but the building blocks remain the same.

Smart Growth makes state funding available to help local governments pay for planning. It enlists technical support from the University of Wisconsin Extension. Such support is especially helpful to communities that can't afford a full-time planner.

Beginning in 2005, cities, towns and villages that have comprehensive plans and are making an effort to follow them will be eligible for a Smart Growth dividend payment from the state. This money is another incentive to get the planning effort underway.

By 2010, most land use decisions and actions will have to be based on a local comprehensive plan. No government will be forced to adopt a comprehensive plan, but it will become increasingly difficult to do business after 2010 if a plan is not in place.

Other states are working on land use legislation, and a handful have passed new laws. Smart Growth for Wisconsin is among the most innovative and complete programs in place. It moves our state to the front of the pack.

Wisconsin's efforts united legislators from across the political spectrum, urged on by an unprecedented alliance that included 1000 Friends of Wisconsin and other environmental organizations, the Wisconsin Realtors Association, the Builders Association, the Alliance of Cities, the League of Municipalities, the Towns Association, the state Planners Association and the Counties Association.

It's fair to say that this diverse group has never before worked together to support such an important legislative initiative. Each deserves credit. Smart Growth will work for Wisconsin and help local communities make growth work for them. For more information about the Smart Growth legislation, contact 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin at 608-259-1000 or the Wisconsin Land Council at 608-267-2707.


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