Conservation development design is a tool that can shape how development occurs. Walworth County adopted a voluntary conservation development design ordinance that can be used to control how subdivions are developed. Two Walworth County Towns have mandatory conservation subdivision ordinances. The Town of LaGrange has made the County ordinance mandatory for all subdivisions and the Town of Lyons has developed its own conservation subdivision ordinance.


  • Preserve the Rural Character of Walworth County. Preserving unique natural features, environmental corridors, farmland, scenic viewsheds, and historic structures, conservation design allows development, while preserving the things that make Walworth County a special place to live.
  • Reduce Stormwater Runoff & Increase Groundwater Recharge. Preserving existing natural resources, such as woodlands, and decreasing the amount of managed lawn area and other impervious surfaces in the subdivision will help keep more rainwater where it falls. This reduces the amount of stormwater runoff and promotes groundwater recharge critical to maintaining our aquifers. Reducing stormwater runoff also helps reduce flooding.
  • Lot Density Remains the Same with Far Greater Open Space & Green Space. Even though 50% yo 70% of the buildable lands is preserved, the same number of homesites are allowed as in conventional subdivisions.
  • Reduced Infrastructure and & Maintenance Costs. Clustering of homes usually reduces infrastructure demands for roads, curbs, gutters, and sidewalks and the associated costs. Maintenances costs such as road repair, snow plowing and other debris removal are also reduced.
  • Reduced Property Owner Maintenance. Smaller lot sizes are often attractive to the ever-increasing baby-boomers who wish to reduce their yard maintenance obligations. By clustering homes, the owners still have the benefit of large tracts of open space for their use and enjoyment, while reducing the individual maintenance obligations.

Walworth County's Voluntary Conservation Development Design Ordinance

Walworth County adopted a voluntary Conservation Development Design ordinance in 2004, which can be used for all residential developments with five or more dwellings in A-2, C-2, C-3, R-1, R-2, R-2A, and R-3 zoned districts. The ordinance allows smaller lot sizes so that home sites can be clustered, with the remaining land set aside as common open space for residents.

The intent is to conserve unique and sensitive natural features such as woodlands, steep slopes, streams, floodlands, and wetlands, by protecting them from development and encouraging the protection of the elements that are part of Walworth County’s beauty and rural character. The ordinance provides greater design flexibility and efficiency in the siting of services and infrastructure, including the opportunity to reduce road lengths, utility runs, and the amount of paving for residential developments.

The ordinance also provides landowners with many options to minimize impacts on the site’s natural and cultural features such as woodlands, critical wildlife habitat, historic buildings, and fieldstone walls, and it encourages trails for passive recreational use for homeowner enjoyment.

The ordinance requires that the conserved lands be permanently restricted from further development through the use of deed restrictions, the donation of a conservation easement to a public agency or nonprofit conservation organization, or through another agreement acceptable to Walworth County.

The conserved land may be held in common ownership through the homeowners association or condominium agreements, or be dedicated, fee simple, to a public agency or nonprofit conservation organization. The conserved land may also be owned by a private landowner. Conserved lands that are dedicated to a public agency or owned by a private landowner must have a conservation easement in place.

Management and stewardship plans are required for the conserved land to assure proper long-term maintenance and care of the land.

The voluntary Walworth County Conservation Development Design ordinance prioritizes
the natural resources to be conserved:

Primary Conservation Areas Secondary Conservation Areas
  1. Stream channels, floodlands, wetlands, wet soils, swales,springs,vernal pools, and lowlands environmental corridors
  2. Significant natural areas, critical species habitat sites, and other sites containing species listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern, including those identified in SEWRPC Regional and Walworth County plans.
  3. All steep slopes of 20% or greater; slopes of 12% or greater adjacent to streams and water bodies, where disturbance could be detrimental to water quality; slopes of 12% or greater and wooded (classified as environmental corridors or isolated natural resource areas); and archaeological and burial sites.
  1. Healthy woodlands, particularly those performing important ecological functions such as soil stabilization and protection of streams, wetlands, and wildlife habitat.
  2. Primary environmental corridors.
  3. Areas where topographic and soil conditions are likely to foster groundwater recharge areas.
  4. Existing trail systems.
  5. Hedgrows, groups of trees, botanically significant trees, and other vegetation features representing the site’s rural past.
  6. Historic buildings and other structures older than 100 years.
  7. Visually prominent topographic features such as knolls, kames, eskers, drumlins, hilltops, and ridges, and scenic viewsheds.
  8. Class I, II, III agricultural soils.

What are Environmental Corridors?

Environmental corridors are areas in the landscape containing especially high value natural, scenic, historic, scientific, and recreational features. In Southeastern Wisconsin, they generally lie along major stream valleys, around major lakes, and in the Kettle Moraine area.

Environmental corridors are in effect a composite of the best remaining elements of the natural resource base. Protection and proper management of the resources found within them helps prevent serious environmental problems.

Primary Environmental Corridors contain concentrations of our most significant natural resources. They are at least 400 acres in size, at least two miles long, and at least 200 feet wide.

Secondary Environmental Corridors contain significant but smaller concentrations of natural resources. They are at least 100 acres in size and at least one mile long, unless serving to link primary environmental corridors.

Isolated Natural Resource Areas contain significant remaining resources apart from environmental corridors. They are at least five acres in size and at least 200 feet wide.

Learn more about Environmental Corridors. (900kb pdf file SEWRPC Publication)