Dane County rural zoning (copy)

Officials from Dane County, the county's cities and villages association, and a handful of towns have opposed a Republican bill that would allow towns to opt out of county zoning control. The bill is specially crafted so it would only apply in Dane County.

State Journal archives

An Assembly committee voted Tuesday to advance legislation that would allow Dane County towns to opt out of county zoning, although more changes may be added to the bill when it's brought to the Assembly floor. 

County, city and village officials have lobbied heavily against the measure, arguing it would fragment decision-making and could erode the current balance of farmland and development in the county. But members of the Dane County Towns Association have pushed for the changes, arguing they will offer more local autonomy to grow tax bases.

Lawmakers on the Assembly Committee on Housing and Real Estate voted on party lines to approve the bill with two amendments. 

As written, the bill would only apply to Dane County — Dane and Milwaukee counties are the only two above the 485,000 population threshold set in the bill, and Milwaukee County does not have any towns.

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Dane County officials last month offered to rewrite the county’s zoning ordinance in an effort to stop the Legislature from voting on the proposal.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.