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Web Resource Helps in Planning for Smart Growth

According to a 1999 mandate, all jurisdictions in Wisconsin must have a comprehensive land-use plan by 2010-or risk losing some local authority. While assembling the required plan is no small task, it may have become a little easier, thanks to a web-based toolkit from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Although land-use planning is a valuable exercise, many smaller communities can’t afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a consultant to facilitate the process, says Steve Ventura, head of the Land Information and Computer Graphics Facility at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Faced with a demand for some sort of comprehensive planning toolkit, the LICGF designed a free online package called Community Planning Resources. “Our hypothesis was that much of the needed data is already available,” Ventura explains. “There”s a lot of planning information on the web, but there has never been one site to guide a community through the whole process.”

The LICGF’s website contains educational materials that explain the Smart Growth Act and the planning process, links to planning data at state agency websites, and information about mapping methods, analysis approaches, and facilitation techniques. It also gives communities a place to establish their own web presence for land-use planning. That part of the site can be customized with calendars, drafts of documents, and discussion and voting forums.

“We tested Community Planning Resources in several communities, and we got extremely positive feedback from them and from other reviewers,” says Ventura. “We’re now ready to make it more widely accessible.”

The package is now available for general use. Ventura says that the LICGF hopes to establish a long-term partnership to provide ongoing support for Community Planning Resources.