Tour Showcases Country's Most Innovative Land Use Programs

Wisconsin group will tour land use programs in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Published on: Sep 12, 2008

Local and state officials, farmers, landowners and developers will have the opportunity to see and hear first-hand how three densely populated states have implemented growth management and working lands protection programs in the Ultimate Land Use Study Tour scheduled for October 2008.

"Communities in the East, where development pressures have been far greater than in Wisconsin, have had 30 years of experience in determining what works and what doesn't, " says Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, Rod Nilsestuen, a tour participant in 2006. "The Ultimate Land Use Study Tour is the fastest and best way I know to see this up close and ask your own questions directly of farmers, local government leaders and developers."

The tour is coordinated by the University of Wisconsin-Extension and is designed to showcase some of the most innovative land use programs in the nation based in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

"The goal of the tour is to increase awareness, knowledge and understanding of alternative land use implementation tools and expand leadership to consider pursuing some of these techniques here in Wisconsin," says Alicia Acken-Cosgrove, UW-Extension land use specialist in River Falls.

The study tour is based on a highly successful program initiated in 1998 by the Michigan Rural Development Council and the American Farmland Trust Great Lakes regional office. It includes sessions with farmers on land preserved for future agriculture production and visits to residential developments where building has been promoted. Developers will share experiences on ways they have benefited from the same program that protects farmland.

"These communities have figured out how to develop win-win solutions that don't pit farmers and folks who want to preserve the land against developers," said Mike Koles, Waupaca County UW-Extension community resource development educator. "When both parties' interests can be met, everyone wins."

"The Ultimate Land Use Study Tour really shows how communities can protect farmland and their local agriculture infrastructure by using either purchase or transfer of development rights programs as tools to help implement their land use plans. It was interesting to see and hear how farms could sell their development rights through a voluntary program," says Richard Wagner, a dairy farmer and local town plan commission member who is on a statewide committee planning the tour.

"Many farms then use proceeds from the sale of their development rights to reinvest in their operation, often through installment purchase agreements that help reduce their tax liability as well. Farmers in those areas know they can plan for the future without fear of urban or suburban development popping up next door," Wagner says.

Charlie Handy, La Crosse County Planning Director, believes that the tour really shows the value and importance of thoughtful land use planning. "These innovative tools will not work without first having a quality comprehensive plan," he notes.

The next Ultimate Land Use Tour is scheduled for Oct. 15-20. Cost is $950 per person, including airfare, meals, lodging and materials. It runs until is sold out (there are only 50 seats available). To register and get more information, go to www.datcp.state.wi.us. For registration questions, call Peggy Haker, 608-224-5401.