Commissions FAQ 2
Can a nonresident be appointed as a member of the Plan Commission?
Yes. In the absence of a municipal ordinance requiring residency, it is the League’s opinion that a nonresident may be appointed as a member of the Plan Commission. Wisconsin Stat. § 62.23(1) (a) allows the mayor or village president to appoint elected or appointed officials and at least three “citizen” members who are not city officials. A “citizen” is not the same as resident, and the only specific requirement for citizen members is that they be persons of “recognized experience and qualifications.” Since “citizen” isn’t statutorily defined, it should be construed according to common and approved usage. Wis. Stat. § 990.01(1). Still, there is some ambiguity with the term. For example, Merriam-Webster provides two definitions of citizen: “a civilian as distinguished from a specialized servant of the state”; and “an inhabitant of a city or town.” Citizen, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/ dictionary/citizen (last visited Jul. 6, 2022).
Given the statutory construction, it is our opinion that the “civilian” definition is more consistent with the statute’s intent. Several statutes do specifically state that appointees must be “residents,” and where that term is used the appointee must actually reside within the city or village. However, the inclusion of resident requirements elsewhere in the statutes but its absence in this provision suggests that the legislature intended to omit such requirements for citizen members of Plan Commissions. As such, it is the League’s opinion that an otherwise qualified nonresident may be appointed as a member of the Plan Commission.