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Comprehensive Planning vs. Zoning

Differences between planning and zoning are not clear to every citizen or to all local units of government. Both planning and zoning are important elements in land use management efforts of local governments because an effective zoning decision should be based on a sound plan that is supported by the community. A comprehensive plan will, with all nine plan elements, focus on the future and establishes community goals and objectives regarding how land will be used in the next 20 years. Zoning on the other hand, is only one tool that can help communities achieve their respective goals and objectives through land use regulation.

Comprehensive planning is focused on the future and helps establish community goals and objectives. It is visionary in that it identifies where and how citizens would like to see the physical development of the community take place. Planning is a process that helps a community prepare for change, rather than react to it.

Zoning is a tool that is used to implement the comprehensive plan and to limit land uses for the protection of public health, safety, and welfare. It does this by separating conflicting land uses and ensures development is directed in certain areas that can accommodate that particular land use. Under zoning, communitites are divided into different districts, (or zones) which impose different land use controls or specific restrictions on each district. A local government comprehensive plan will likely be more successful if the plan and zoning ordinance (if one is in place) are well integrated and if they accommodate the interests and needs of neighboring communities.

In summary, zoning is a regulatory tool used to regulate and enforce comprehensive plans. The development of a comprehensive plan ensures effective and consistent zoning decisions at the local level.

Public Participation in Comprehensive Planning

In recent years, many local authorities have not circulated information effectively enough to increase public participation and interaction between local government officials and the people they serve. As part of the Comprehensive Planning Legislation, people are given better oportunities for participation than before, particularly in the early stages of plan development. The Comprehensive Planning Legislation mandates that the governing body adopt written procedures to foster public participation throughout the planning process. The "Public Participation Plan" forms the framework for achieving an interactive dialogue between all parties involved in the development of the comprehensive plan. Citizen participation in the development of comprehensive plans is essential for a number of reasons.

  • Ensures that good plans remain intact over time.

  • Promotes strong public buy-in for the plan

  • Reduces the likelihood of conflicts between councils, boards, and planning commissions

  • Speeds the development process and reduces costs associated with the project

  • Increases the quality of planning

  • Enhances the sense of community trust in government

    During the planning process, citizen participation will be made available through a number of methods. Some of those will include visioning and nominal groups, public meetings and workshops, information and educaiton sessions, and open houses at the local and county level. Formal public hearings will also be conducted as part of the plan adoption process to allow public testimony to be heard regarding the local government's plan. All meetings related to the development of the comprehensive plan(s) are open to the public and your participation is strongly encouraged. Check with your local unit of government or Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission to find out when upcoming meetings are scheduled.

    Click here for the Department of Administration website for a library of all comprehensive plans »

    Contact:  Tim Oestreich - Land Information Director
    Phone: (715) 732-7541
    Click here to email
    Address:  Mailing Address:
    1926 Hall Avenue
    Marinette WI 54143

    Physical Address: Resource Center - 1925 Ella Court - Marinette - located on second floor
    Office Hours:  8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.