Regional planning commissions in the State of Wisconsin are public agencies formed by executive order of the Governor. Wisconsin state statutes specify that regional planning commissions are to provide intergovernmental planning and coordination for the physical, social, and economic development of the Region.
All regional planning commissions in Wisconsin are designated by the State and Federal governments as clearinghouses for the purpose of reviewing Federal grant applications against adopted regional and local plans and development priorities. Seven of the commissions are designated or authorized as Economic Development Districts by the U.S. Economic Development Administration for purposes of areawide economic planning and to guide the investment of Federal funds for economic development. All Nine commissions are affiliates of the Wisconsin State Data Center, whereby they provide data services (particularly census data) to local units of government and to the public. In addition, three commissions have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Transportation as Metropolitan Planning Organizations to carry out a comprehensive transportation planning process in the State’s urban areas. Two commissions are designated water quality planning agencies.
Under Wisconsin law, regional planning commissions have the following functions:
They may conduct all types of research studies; collect and analyze data; prepare maps, charts and tables; and conduct necessary studies.
They may make and adopt plans for the physical, social and economic development of the Region.
They may publish and advertise their purposes, objectives and findings, and may distribute reports thereon.
They may provide advisory services on planning problems to the local governmental units within the Region and to other public and private agencies in matters relative to its functions and objectives.
Over the years, the demands of various regions on the regional planning commissions have changed. These changes, however, have not altered the basic advisory role of the commissions. The original and traditional role of the commissions was to plan for the physical development of the areas they served. This involved planning issues such as land use, transportation, natural resources, and water and sewer services. While this function has continued to be important, additional program responsibilities have been assumed, including technical assistance in such areas as economic development, grant and loan services, and local government management.
The broad range of functions and services performed by Wisconsin’s regional planning commissions is exemplified by the table of planning and assistance activities. The variations in the services provided are a result of the different needs and levels of financial support provided by each commission’s member units of government. Commissions receive funds through a statutorily authorized charge, State and Federal planning grant programs, and contracts with local governments for special planning services. Local funds are often used by the commissions as a match for Federal and State planning grants.