Facing ongoing developmental pressure from every compass point, lovers of Jefferson County’s “environmental island” status between Milwaukee and Madison could hardly find themselves with more serious discussions than the ones ahead.

It’s time — again — to address the county’s comprehensive, agricultural preservation and land-use plans in what was set as a target year back in 1996.

Jefferson County officials, with expected input from residents and stakeholders, will be working to update two of its long-range planning documents that outline strategies for growth, and preservation of its assets and resources. The documents were created in the middle-to-late 1990s, with the year 2020 as the year they would see their ultimate fruition and that has happened.

“These meetings will offer the public an opportunity to provide input that will be used to inform the future of the county,” Jefferson County Administrator Ben Wehmeier said.

Wehmeier called the comprehensive and agricultural preservation and land-use plans “crucial visionary documents” for the future of the region, as they have been for two decades.

“They cover significant policy areas, to include agricultural, natural, and cultural resources; transportation; housing; economic development; community facilities; and intergovernmental cooperation,” he said. “Public input and engagement is crucial to help guide the development of these plans to ensure the vision of future growth aligns with the needs of stakeholders in a balanced, proactive approach.”

Residents are invited to participate in the planning process through in-person and virtual formats. Each format will cover the same material.

A virtual open house will be held on July 22, providing a presentation and question-and-answer opportunity. This presentation will be recorded and will be available via the county’s project website for viewing. Participants will be provided materials and a survey link to provide feedback. The survey will be available starting on July 22.

The presentation will be run throughout the two-hour open house, along with a range of activities. Participants are welcome to attend at any point within the meeting.

Two in-person open houses will follow the virtual meeting, July 28 and 29, at the Jefferson County Fair Park, between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Representatives from Jefferson County and SRF Consulting Group will be available to answer questions and discuss concerns.

An article in the April 23, 1996 edition of the Daily Times documented the formative years of the comprehensive plan to be revisited in the coming weeks. At that time, the plan, developed by now-retired Jefferson County University of Wisconsin-Extension Agent and Professor Steve Grabow, was called “Plan 2020,” so this is a significant year for the document.

In April of 1996, a steering committee had settled tentatively on a consultant to help direct the plan.

“This is a complex (thing), Grabow told the Daily Times at that time. “It really is a comprehensive planning project ... Over the next 20-year period, Jefferson County will experience increasing development pressure. Southeastern Wisconsin was recently identified in a national study as one of the key areas in the country where prime farmlands are most threatened by development pressures.”

Grabow said then that the extent to which Jefferson County would be able to retain its rural character and agricultural resources was going to be dependent on the land use policies reflected in the plan and the ability to implement those policies through fair and effective zoning and other land use regulations. This is something that county officials have said has been accomplished and made the county an island of natural features such as parks, trails and open spaces that entice tourists from around more urban parts of southern Wisconsin.

Among the accomplishments of the plan have been clustered development around cities and villages, enhancement of county parks that are now often linked by bike and pedestrian trails, and controlled residential development in the countryside.

“I’m pleased we are back on track in updating this important document,” Jefferson County Board Chairman Steve Nass said last week.

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