Types of Zoning

General Zoning

Local governments in Wisconsin decide for themselves whether or not to adopt general zoning, also known as comprehensive zoning.  Authority to adopt general zoning is outlined in state statutes and summarized below:

  • Cities and villages may adopt general zoning which applies to lands within their municipal boundaries.1 Cities and villages may also adopt extraterritorial zoning which applies to land in surrounding unincorporated areas.2
  • Counties may adopt general zoning which applies to unincorporated land within the county, provided the town adopts the county ordinance.3
  • Towns may adopt general zoning if they are located in a county without general zoning.4 Towns may also adopt general zoning if they are located in a county with general zoning and receive the approval of the county.5 Unlike subdivision regulations, county and town general zoning may not apply in the same area.

The zoning ordinance and map describe uses that are allowed within each zoning district.

Additional Forms of Zoning

Though local communities decide whether or not to adopt general zoning, state statutes require communities to administer certain types of zoning as described below:

  • Shoreland zoning provides development standards near waterways to protect water quality, aquatic and wildlife habitat, shore cover and natural scenic beauty. Wisconsin statutes require counties to exercise shoreland zoning in unincorporated areas.6
  • Shoreland-wetland zoning generally prohibits or severely restricts development in wetlands near waterways. It has the same objectives as shoreland zoning and is required of counties, cities and villages that have received wetland maps from the state.7
  • Floodplain zoning provides location and development standards to protect human life, health and property from flooding. It is required of counties, cities and villages that have been issued maps designating flood prone areas.8

In addition, communities may opt to implement additional forms of zoning such as farmland preservation zoning,9 construction site erosion control and stormwater management zoning,10 and airport approach protection zoning.11

Watch Now: Types of Zoning

An overview of the types of zoning in Wisconsin.


1Wis. Stat. §§ 62.23 and 61.35.
2Wis. Stat. § 62.23(7a).  Extraterritorial zoning may be adopted within 3 miles of the corporate limits of a first, second or third class city, or within 1½ miles of a fourth class city or village.  A joint extraterritorial committee must approve of extraterritorial zoning ordinances and amendments.  The committee consists of 3 members from a city or village and 3 members from each town.
3Wis. Stat. § 59.69.
4Wis. Stat. § 60.61.
5Wis. Stat. § 60.62. In order to exercise this authority, towns must first adopt village powers.  The town zoning ordinance and subsequent amendments are subject to approval by the county.
6Wis. Stat. § 59.692; Wis. Admin. Code ch. NR 115.  Cities and villages are required to enforce shoreland zoning in areas that were subject to county shoreland zoning prior to being annexed or incorporated.  A town may also enforce shoreland zoning provisions provided they are more restrictive than the county.
7Wis. Stat. §§ 61.351 (villages) and 62.231 (cities); Wis. Admin. Code ch. NR 115 (counties).
8Wis. Stat. § 87.30(1).
9Wis. Stat. § 91.30.
10Wis. Stat. §§ 59.693 (counties), 60.627 (towns), 61.354 (villages) and 62.234 (cities).
11Wis. Stat. § 114.136.


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