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Towns Cannot Require Other Units of Government to Engage in "Coordination," Attorney General Van Hollen Reasons in Formal Opinion


MADISON - Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen today issued a formal opinion to Oneida County Corporation Counsel Brian J. Desmond explaining that Wisconsin towns do not possess statutory authority to require other units of government, such as counties and state agencies, to engage in a process that has been described as "coordination."  Certain Wisconsin towns have received written solicitations requesting monetary compensation for assisting or guiding them through a process that is described in those solicitations as "coordination."  In response to those solicitations, some towns have enacted resolutions stating that they are requiring counties, state agencies, and other governmental agencies to engage in a "coordination" process.


Van Hollen explained that towns have only those powers delegated to them by state statute, and that the Wisconsin municipal planning statutes do not contain a "coordination" power that would allow a town to ignore its own statutory obligations or permit a town to impose non-statutory obligations on other municipalities or units of government.  Van Hollen also explained that sections 1.13, 16.023(1)(c), 16.965, 16.967, and 560.04 of the Wisconsin Statutes, which are cited in the adopted resolutions, do not accord any "coordination" powers to towns.


Van Hollen also determined that state statutes concerning municipal planning do not accord towns any implied "coordination" power.  Van Hollen noted that towns and other municipalities may develop and adopt comprehensive plans required by law by simply following the requirements in section 66.1001 of the Wisconsin Statutes and concluded that the exercise of a "coordination" power is not necessary for towns or other municipalities to comply with that statute.


Van Hollen emphasized that towns do have a role in the comprehensive planning and zoning processes.  Van Hollen noted that those processes are public in nature and therefore do afford towns an opportunity for participation.  Van Hollen indicated that towns may also participate in the creation of regional planning commissions, if they choose to do so.  Van Hollen further noted that towns do possess statutory authority to enter into voluntary intergovernmental agreements with other municipalities to furnish or receive services, or to jointly exercise various statutory powers or duties.


A copy of the opinion and the original request are available at:


2010 file: