Ordinance Publication Requirements: New Law Effective March 26, 2008

Municipal Law Alert, May 2008

On March 11, 2008, Governor Jim Doyle signed into law Senate Bill 335, 2007 Wis. Act 72, permitting local governments to publish summaries of newly enacted ordinances. Prior to passage of this new law, in most circumstances, municipalities were required to publish (or post) the entire text of a newly enacted ordinance. Since publication costs can be substantial, sometimes running into the thousands of dollars, this new law will allow a municipality to save considerable publication expense.

The new law applies to cities, villages, towns and counties. Essentially, it allows a local government to publish a summary of the ordinance as long as the summary meets four statutory requirements. A “summary” must contain:

  1. The number and title of the ordinance;
  2. The enactment date of the ordinance;
  3. A “brief, precise, and plain language description [of the ordinance] that can be easily understood”; and
  4. Information stating where someone can obtain the full text of the ordinance. This information must contain the applicable municipal clerk’s phone number, the street address where the full text of the ordinance may be viewed, and a Web site, if any, where the ordinance may be accessed.

This new law makes changes to Wis. Stat. Chapters 59 (counties), 60 (towns), 61 (villages) and 62 (cities). In the case of towns, the law allows summaries of ordinances and resolutions, and also rules and orders of town sanitary districts. For villages, the law includes ordinances and bylaws.

A copy of the newly enacted law can be obtained at the Wisconsin State Legislature’s website at the following link:


The new law went into effect on March 26, 2008.

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Doubts About Roundabouts? What Municipalities Need to Know

Municipal Law Alert, May 2008

The environment has become the focus of many media campaigns. The airwaves are full of advertisements imploring people to “go green” or conserve resources. A frequent target of “green” initiatives is automobile travel.

Environmental concerns are one of the driving factors behind a traffic control model that is being considered in many municipalities: the roundabout. Roundabouts serve as a substitute for the more traditional stop sign, traffic light or turn lane systems at intersections. Modern roundabouts are different from traffic circles. Traffic circles are infamous in European countries and often involve two-way traffic with the entering traffic having the right of way. Roundabouts only involve a single stream of traffic being routed around a central island and entering traffic must yield to the central traffic. Locally, there are examples of roundabouts located near Hudson at the intersection of Highway 35 and Hanley Road and in Rice Lake.

Environmental groups support roundabouts because they reduce the number of vehicle starts and stops and vehicle idling time. These reductions in turn reduce fuel consumption and air pollution.

Significantly for municipalities, roundabouts are also supported by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation due to advantages of safety and efficiency. If a municipal intersection with a state highway needs to be improved or rebuilt, the Department of Transportation will seriously consider roundabouts in lieu of traffic signaling.

The most common cited advantages of roundabouts are measurable reductions in the number of accidents, continuous traffic flow and reduced delay during peak travel periods. In addition, roundabouts eliminate the costs associated with the maintenance of signals and providing power to operate signals.

While there are advantages to roundabouts, there are also downsides to their use. Public perceptions of roundabouts can be negative. A certain amount of driver education is necessary for drivers to learn how to appropriately navigate a roundabout. Emergency vehicles can no longer preempt signal control and move rapidly through an intersection. There are additional maintenance costs associated with central island landscaping. Furthermore, because they involve more road bed being laid down, construction costs are initially higher, along with the costs for right of way. Larger vehicles may have difficulty navigating a roundabout if the size is too small. Finally, pedestrians will have a longer travel path.

There is no clear answer to whether a roundabout should be installed at an intersection. What is clear is that municipalities will be hearing a lot more about roundabouts in the future.

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Development Agreements: A Primer

Municipal Law Alert, May 2008


A Development Agreement is a contract between a municipality and a real estate developer that governs the land use allowed in a particular project. The agreement is a planning tool that allows a municipality to control development within its boundaries and ensure it is advancing its local planning policies.

A well-crafted agreement will provide a useful roadmap for the developer and the municipality.[1] Development Agreements are used in residential, commercial and industrial developments. A residential development agreement generally focuses on infrastructure, such as streets and utilities. A commercial or industrial development agreement addresses the same issues and in addition deals with tax increment financing and real estate tax agreements.


As developments move into Western Wisconsin’s smaller communities, the municipalities can have parameters of their smart growth planning. For example, it may be very easy to stray from the comprehensive land use plan when a business employing 200 people comes to town. Development Agreements should be used as a tool to insure the proposed development follows the overall municipal plan. Using Development Agreements encourages communities to think ahead, in a comprehensive manner, about the impacts of development within their jurisdiction.[2]

Developments are an economic risk, not only to the developer, but also to the municipality. The developer risks losing its initial investment if the government withholds approval of a development or changes a requirement halfway through the development’s construction. The local residents risk losing open space, other development opportunities, increases in traffic and other aesthetic and environmental burdens that come with development. Municipalities use Development Agreements to address the new demands the development will have on municipal resources, roads, schools, sewer and police protection.[3]

Development Agreements lessen the risks to all parties. They provide developers with greater certainty regarding the municipality’s expectations and allow communities to establish their own requirements to limit their exposure to the impact of the development. Development Agreements allocate the benefits and burdens of projects predictably and in a controlled setting.[4]

Development Agreements have three defining characteristics: (1) negotiations regarding appropriate land use; (2) greater flexibility for municipalities imposing conditions and requirements on projects; and (3) assurance that, once approved, there will be no surprises for either the developer or the municipality during the process. A rational nexus between the public benefits offered and the project impacts should be demonstrated in all formal or informal Development Agreements.

[1] Development Agreement Manual: Collaboration in Pursuit of Community Interests, p. 41 (2005).

[2] Development Agreement Manual: Collaboration in Pursuit of Community Interests, p. 25 (2005).

[3] Goodwin Proctor, Environmental Law Advisory (April 2002).

[4] Goodwin Proctor, Environmental Law Advisory (April 2002).

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