Some Modern Day Musings on the Police Power
The police power is commonly thought of as the regulatory power of the state. Sometimes we are left with the impression that zoning and the police power are one and the same. “The city will lose its police powers if it does not adopt a comprehensive plan!” Various planners and attorneys repeated this statement to me following the passage of Wisconsin’s comprehensive planning law in 1999. The 1999 law required that, beginning on January 1, 2010, certain local government actions, like zoning, would need to be consistent with the local unit of government’s comprehensive plan.2 The logic of the argument that the city must adopt a comprehensive plan in order to maintain its police powers was that the consistency requirement made the comprehensive plan’s existence a prerequisite to having a zoning ordinance. In other words, if a local government did not have a comprehensive plan by January 1, 2010, the local government would not be able to have a zoning ordinance.