The East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission was created as a regional planning commission by Executive Order No. 41, issued by Governor Patrick J. Lucey and dated June 29, 1972. This action was taken following the submittal of petitions by the ten counties within the East Central region pursuant to SS. 66.945 (now SS. 66.0309), the existing regional planning enabling statute. The East Central RPC was preceded by two areawide planning agencies: the Fox Valley Council of Governments (FVCOG) which was formed in 1956 and was composed of fifteen governmental units in the Appleton-Neenah and Oshkosh urbanized areas, and the Northeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (NEWRPC) formed in 1962 and composed of nine counties encompassing the Wolf River Basin. With the issuance of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Areawide Planning Organization (APO) and Areawide Principal Jurisdiction (APJ) certification requirements in July 1970, these two agencies were dissolved and replaced by East Central which was roughly aligned with proposed uniform state administrative districts. The three northernmost counties of NEWRPC were dropped from the region and Calumet, Fond du Lac, Green Lake and Marquette counties were added on the south. Calumet and Fond du Lac counties had ongoing county planning programs prior to their affiliation with East Central.
The existence of different state agency configurations at the time various regional planning agencies were formed, coupled with the fact that the Governor did not adhere to the districting configuration when forming East Central, resulted in the significant overlapping of jurisdictions. In the past, the East Central region coordinated its planning program through memoranda of agreement with up to three criminal justice planning regions (now a statewide function), two health planning districts (now defunct), three manplanning districts (now four), two area agencies on aging (now one), two rural conservation and development districts, two community action power programs (now three), one water quality management planning area (now defunct), the Wisconsin Rural Housing Cooperative and the State Clearinghouse. Additionally East Central coordinated with two regional transportation offices and one district natural resource office.
The basic rationale for the East Central Region as a geographic planning region is twofold. First, the Appleton MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) and Oshkosh-Neenah MSA are geographic units that can only be modified by the Federal Office of Management and Budget. These two areas have overlapping mandatory planning requirements for various federal funding programs above and beyond those for other areas. The initial Appleton and Oshkosh Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) were authorized by the Governor in December, 1973 while the City of Fond du Lac was designated an urbanized area effective May 2002 when the population exceeded 50,000 with the 2000 Census. The MPO designation was made by the Governor of Wisconsin in December 2002. Due to population growth in the Appleton MSA, this MPO received Transportation Management Agency (TMA) status in 2012 as a result of the 2010 Census results. The Fox Cities, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac urban areas thus serve as the focus for regional planning in this four county area along with the urban water quality focus of the Winnebago pool lakes and the lower Fox River.
To the west and the north, Green Lake, Marquette, Waushara, Waupaca, Shawano and Menominee counties share a common rural character while having a general orientation to the urban counties as trade and employment centers. When going to the extremes of the rural counties these ties fade and are shifted outside the region. The basic orientation for planning in the East Central region recognizes the diversity and commonality, and tailors program activities accordingly. This overall planning framework is consistent throughout the region.
Within the statutory provisions of SS. 66.0309 (previously SS. 66.945), East Central’s main stated purpose is the “function and duty of making (preparing) and adopting a master (comprehensive) plan for the physical development of the region”. This basic enabling statute is complemented by the comprehensive planning law (Smart Growth) SS. 66.1001 that specifies the content of the regional comprehensive plan.