Comprehensive Plan

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On March 9, 2009 a new comprehensive plan for the City of Janesville was adopted by the City Council. The City of Janesville Comprehensive Plan is designed to help the City guide short-range and long-range growth and development. The Plan provides recommendations in the areas of land use, transportation, economic development, parks and open space, historical and cultural resources, housing, community facilities, agricultural and natural resources, utilities, and intergovernmental cooperation. The Comprehensive Plan serves as the primary tools used by City agencies, the Plan Commission, City Council and other policy bodies to make decisions about the location of land uses and community facilities, priorities for public investment and the extension of public services, business development, and how to meet transportation needs over the next 25 years.

Comprehensive Plan Documents 

Comprehensive Plan Volume 1 - Section 1

Comprehensive Plan Volume 1 - Section 2

Comprehensive Plan Volume 2 - Section 1

Comprehensive Plan Volume 2 - Section 2

Comprehensive Plan Volume 2 - Section 3

Downtown Vision & Strategy Plan - Section 1

Downtown Vision & Strategy Plan - Section 2

Look West & Fourth Ward Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy

Southwest Area Plan

2016 Parks & Open Space Plan


What is planning? 

Planning – in the context of urban planning for the City of Janesville – is the analysis of past trends to anticipate future needs and desires, while honoring the complexity of the community and its important historical and cultural elements. The goal of planning is to help citizens and public officials make informed decisions about the future based on a thorough evaluation of current needs and past actions. In this sense, planning can be viewed as an aid to decision making. However, it is not a substitute for it.

What is the planning process?
The planning process defines how the city goes about developing, implementing and updating a plan. It includes the opportunity for input from many sources at multiple stages, and key decision points. As decisions are made, the progression from general concepts to specific policies occurs, and the specific strategies and policies of the plan take shape.
The term “planning process” suggests the on-going or cyclical nature of planning, and Figure 1 illustrates this cyclical quality. Looking at it in a general form in Figure 1, the planning process attempts to answer a series of questions. 

  • What do we have and what needs do we anticipate in terms of population growth, housing, transportation, etc? (Research and Analysis)
  • What do we want? For example, what does the citizenry want or expect their community to be like in the future, in terms of housing, neighborhoods, parks, employment opportunities and so on. (Goal Setting.)
  • How do we get there? The overall strategy or plan which is intended to create the condition we want.
  • Getting there or plan implementation is the next step.
  • Is the plan working? Is it effectively bringing about what we said we wanted? (Plan Monitoring.)

The City’s Plan Commission served as the advisory committee for the preparation of the Comprehensive Plan. They gathered public input, reviewed each element of the plan, and made final recommendations to the City Council.

The City was dedicated to involving the public in the development of the Comprehensive Plan and prepared a “Public Participation Plan” that outlines the steps that were taken to do just that.

What is the Comprehensive Plan?
A comprehensive plan is an officially adopted public document that establishes policies aimed at guiding the growth and development of the community for the next 25 years. The plan contains many coordinated and consistent elements including issues and opportunities, agricultural, natural & cultural resources, transportation, utilities & community facilities, housing, economic development, land use, and implementation.

The purpose of the plan is to guide decisions concerning the physical development of the community. It is a statement of how the City should develop over the next 25 years and what can be done to increase the likelihood of that happening. The plan will be used to guide the location, development and maintenance of the many facilities and services provided by the City, and will be used by decision makers when reviewing development cases.

In preparing a comprehensive plan a diverse set of tools are used. Planners examine population, land use and development trends, and gather input from citizens, community leaders, and citizen groups. This is used to create a diverse set of recommendations to address the problems that can arise from the interplay of people and place.

Why is a Comprehensive Plan needed?
City government has a great deal of influence on the way in which a community develops. The buildings, facilities, and improvements, notably street and utility extensions, provided by local government affect the daily lives of most citizens, give form to the community, and stimulate or slow the development of privately owned land.
The City needs some technical guidance in making physical development decisions. A long-range comprehensive plan outlines general policies that will allow for the physical development of the community in a coordinated, unified manner. These policies create a rational set of guidelines by which new and complex issues can be evaluated, and creates opportunities for future growth.

How has Janesville used comprehensive planning?
The Comprehensive Plan plays an active role in the growth of the City. It identifies the general areas appropriate for single and multi-family housing, commercial development, roads, bike trails, parks and more. This provides property owners and developers with an indication of how the community will evolve. The rational used to identify each of these uses can be adopted as city policy. For example, higher density multifamily housing may be deemed as an appropriate transitional land use between single-family residential areas and more intense commercial uses. The plan may identify that it is appropriate to have major arterial streets at one-mile intervals, creating streets with a grid configuration. These policies can then be used to evaluate applications for rezoning, or to identify where a street should be located and how it should be configured when the land is subdivided for development.

In the case of land use planning and zoning, the proactive identification of land uses allows future needs to be realized. In the early 1970’s the City recognized the need to relocate Highway 11 from its inter-city location to a more appropriate location on a bypass on the outskirts of the community. This need was identified in planning documents, yet funding for the project couldn’t be obtained until the mid-1990’s. The early identification of the project allowed the City to gain project support at the state level, as well as alert landowners of the future changes well before the project’s completion.

The need for, and appropriateness of, a regional level commercial development north of Highway 14 and east of I-90 was also identified in the early 80’s. In 2000, the Northeast Area Plan was completed, and it further refined the analysis to indicate that this area was conducive to high-quality commercial development. Combined, these plans facilitated development of this area as the Pine Tree Shopping Plaza and Wal-Mart development.

The land for the NE Regional Park was purchased in the early 80’s, when the city limits were still in the vicinity of Wright Road. Identifying the need for a large regional park on the City’s northeast side at such an early date allowed one of the unique natural features in the region to be preserved, and enabled the City to purchase 80 acres of land at an affordable price, especially in comparison to its present day value.

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