Last March the county (Jefferson County, Wisconsin) decided to not follow the Town of Concord's Comprehensive Plan. The county has now admitted that it is legally required to follow the town plan, but it is still defending the particular rezoning (for boat-storage buildings on Hwy. B).
Concord is a nice rural community. Natural areas and green farm fields are the predominant features. Not much of the land in Concord is commercially developed. While being rural by design, Concord is only minutes away from jobs, shopping, restaurants, hospitals, parks, lakes, etc.
As with many places with open undeveloped space Concord is seen as an opportunity by developers. A large majority of people in Concord are strongly opposed to filling the farm fields with warehouses, big box stores, strip malls, subdivisions, etc. Wisconsin’s comprehensive planning law provides residents a voice. Under this law Concord has a comprehensive town plan. Many Concord voices went into developing this plan, and it has legal status. Having a town plan is the reason Concord has kept its rural character for years.
A brief history of what happened:
A zoning request came up before the Concord Planning Committee to take land out of the Farmland Preservation Program for non-agricultural business development. The town planning committee voted to deny the request because it didn't follow the Concord town plan.
The County, after being informed that the zoning request did not follow the town plan, decided to grant the request anyway.
The County's decision to ignore the town plan upset many people in Concord. Their protests were ignored in the name of development.
The next step was going to court (to have a judge review the rezoning process and citizens' complaints).
The county's response to the legal appeal:
1) The county has given many different reasons for ignoring Concord’s plan, but when addressing the claim against them in court, they settled on the fact that Concord had not finished the 10-year update of the town plan, and therefore they (the county) were legally allowed to allow development till the update had been completed.
The law doesn’t say the plan expires in 10 years; it just says the plan needs to be updated every 10 years. Concord purposely delayed updating its plan till after the 2020 census and the county finished updating their plan, so that our plan could take the latest data and the county's own revised plan into account. The reason for having a town plan is local input and consistency in zoning. It would be very strange if technical details (such as adjusting the timing of our plan update) left our community without any zoning criteria and took away citizens' input in planning. Given that many communities' plan are out-of-date, that would be a huge gap in comprehensive planning law and so would go against the intent of that law.
2) The county also relies on the fact that the Concord Town Board had voted two to one to approve the rezoning.
a) The vote the town board took was probably in error as the planning committee had previously voted to deny the request so it shouldn't have moved on to a vote by the town board.
b) The law requires the county as zoning authority to follow the town plan, not the vote of the town board.
What happens next:
A scheduling conference will take place on January 10th, which will set the dates for the rest of the court proceedings
Hopefully we will get this situation straightened out and Concord land use will be guided by it's updated town plan. The vote to approve the town plan is Wednesday, November 23rd.