Adopted by SEWRPC in 2006, the 2035 regional land use plan carries forward fundamental land use recommendations made in the initial regional land use plan adopted in 1966 and amended from time-to-time thereafter. While imperfectly implemented over the intervening years, the fundamental plan concepts attendant to the abatement and containment of urban sprawl, the protection and preservation of the natural resource base, and the protection and preservation of prime agricultural lands first expressed in that initial plan have served the Region well. The most recent regional land use plan was designed to accommodate the 2035 forecasts of population, households, and jobs that were prepared shortly after receipt of the data from the U.S. Census of Population and Housing conducted in 2000.
The current regional land use plan is documented in SEWRPC Planning Report No. 48, A Regional Land Use Plan for Southeastern Wisconsin: 2035, and was prepared under the guidance of the SEWRPC Advisory Committee on Regional Land Use Planning. Under Wisconsin law, regional plans are advisory in nature to the State agencies and County and local units of government that have direct responsibilities for land use management.
The year 2035 regional land use plan contains the following key recommendations:
• New urban development should be accommodated within and around existing urban centers as infill development, through redevelopment, and through the orderly expansion of planned urban service areas on lands proximate to these centers. Particular emphasis is placed on stabilizing and revitalizing the central cities of Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha. The plan further proposes that the forecast increment in population and residential land be allocated to these urban centers and their planned urban growth/sanitary sewer service areas predominantly at medium and high densities—88 percent of all new housing units—in residential neighborhoods and in more mixed use settings. The plan envisions residential neighborhoods designed as cohesive units, properly related to the larger community of which they are a part, and served by an interconnected internal street, bicycle-way, and pedestrian system and by a neighborhood school, park, and shopping area. The regional plan also envisions residential development in mixed-use settings including dwellings above the ground floor of commercial uses; residential structures intermixed with, or located adjacent to, compatible commercial, institutional, or civic uses; and residential development integrated into, or located in proximity to, major employment and activity centers.
• The regional plan envisions a range of commercial and industrial areas. The largest commercial and industrial areas, in terms of employment levels, are identified as major economic activity centers. These are defined as areas containing a concentration of commercial and/or industrial land having at least 3,500 total jobs or 2,000 retail jobs. Sixty such centers would accommodate about 50 percent of all jobs in the Region in 2035. The plan envisions the continued development and redevelopment of the Region's existing major commercial and industrial centers, and those now under development or redevelopment.
• Development outside urban centers and their proposed urban service areas would be constrained. About 2 percent of the projected increment in households in the Region between 2000 and 2035, or about 3,700 households, would be accommodated at a rural density (no more than one housing unit per five acres) in such areas, with conservation subdivision designs recommended. The only other residential development outside urban centers and their planned urban service areas would be limited to that which was already committed through approved subdivision plats and certified survey maps.
• The primary environmental corridors, secondary environmental corridors, and isolated natural resource areas of the Region should be preserved in essentially natural, open uses, continuing to account for about 23 percent of the area of the Region. These areas encompass the best remaining features of the Region's natural landscape—lakes, rivers, streams, and associated shorelands and floodlands, wetlands, woodlands, prairie remnants, wildlife habitat, rugged terrain and steep slopes, unique landforms and geological formations, existing and potential outdoor recreation sites, and scenic areas and vistas.
• The prime, or most productive, farmland in the Region should be preserved. The farmland with soils considered to be most suitable for agriculture is farmland covered by agricultural capability Class I and Class II soils as classified by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. Farmland with Class I and Class II soils accounted for about 36 percent of the land area in the Region and 75 percent of all farmland in southeastern Wisconsin in the year 2000. Some Class I and Class II farmland that is located adjacent to existing urban centers and within planned urban growth/sanitary sewer service areas is necessarily proposed to be converted to urban use as a result of planned and orderly growth of those urban centers. It is recommended that the counties in the Region, in cooperation with the concerned local units of government, carry out planning programs to identify and preserve prime farmland, considering farmland covered by Class I and Class II soils, and other factors including the size of individual farm units and overall size of the farming area, the availability of agricultural services, and the degree of encroachment from urban uses. Most county planning in this regard was carried out more than 20 years ago, and needs to be reviewed and updated.