This article is reprinted with permission from Wisconsin Landscapes, the newsletter of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin and 1000 Friends of Wisconsin Land Use Institute.
The state budget was almost four months late when it was signed into law on October 27th. For those of us who care about protecting the Wisconsin landscape, it was well worth the wait. This budget contained what are easily the most positive and sweeping land use policy reforms in a generation.
Smart Growth For Wisconsin
Less than one of three Wisconsin communities has any land use plan at all. Those plans that do exist are often inadequate, outdated or ignored. Smart Growth For Wisconsin will change all that in the course of the next decade.
Under the new Smart Growth law, by 2010 every community will have to be under a comprehensive plan as a condition of taking any action related to land use. But the law contains significant incentives to get communities to plan earlier and to follow their plans over time. Starting next year, communities will be eligible for a planning grant from the state. Beginning in 2005, they will be eligible for a “Smart Growth Dividend,” intended to reward communities for planning and for growing compactly.
The Stewardship Fund
Since 1990, almost 200,000 acres have been protected from development and made available for public outdoor recreation and habitat protection by the state Stewardship Fund. The fund had been frozen at $23 million per year for the last nine years and it would have expired altogether without reauthorization by the legislature.
Under the reauthorized Stewardship Fund 2000, $46 million will be available each year for the program. This is double the current amount. In addition, the department of Natural Resources is directed to make funding available for wild lakes protection, the Kettle Moraine, bluff lands and purchase of conservation easements programs.
This package of land use reforms includes some ideas that are unique to Wisconsin and moves our state to among the national leaders in the smart growth movement.
The Smart Growth Dividend, for example, is a Wisconsin first. Another is the traditional neighborhood development (TND) ordinance. Classic, walkable neighborhoods with corner stores, sidewalks and porches are usually illegal under local codes. Under Smart Growth, the University of Wisconsin is asked to draft a model TND code and communities above 12,500 in population will be required to adopt a similar code by 2002. Finally, the nine element definition of a comprehensive plan found in Smart Growth is the most complete in the nation.
1000 Friends Got It Done
This historic land use legislation could not have been enacted without a strong, grass roots movement. With almost 1,700 members in 250 communities around Wisconsin, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin was the catalyst behind this legislation in only its third year of operation. Our members wrote letters, sent electronic mail and made phone calls to their legislators and the governor at crucial moments. Our staff members researched and wrote the Smart Growth law, built a coalition behind the legislation and lobbied the legislature for Smart Growth and Stewardship.
But this is just the start. Smart Growth and Stewardship provide opportunities that must be played out at the local level and there is much more to do in the legislature. Still, the end of the year is a good time to reflect on a year of great progress in protecting the places we call home. If you are a member of 1000 Friends you have been a key part of this historic progress which we have made together.
A Smart Growth Primer
The Smart Growth legislation enacted as part of the 1999-2001 state budget bill is the strongest growth management legislation ever passed in Wisconsin and the most significant Wisconsin land use legislation of any kind in a generation or more. The main provisions are outlined below.