Is a municipal governing body required to hold a public hearing before adopting an ordinance?
Not necessarily. There is no general
statutory requirement that municipal governing bodies conduct a public
hearing before taking action on proposed ordinances. In general, a
public hearing is required only if a state or federal law, agency
regulation, or local ordinance mandates that a hearing be held.
In Wisconsin, there are a number of state
statutes requiring municipalities to conduct a public hearing before
taking certain actions. For example, municipalities must hold a public
hearing before adopting or amending a zoning ordinance, amending an
official map, acting on a petition for a conditional use permit or
variance, and adopting the annual budget.
In the absence of a state or federal
statute or agency rule mandating that a hearing be held, municipal
governing bodies may rely on their broad authority to determine their
rules of procedure and adopt ordinances or rules requiring that public
hearings be held before taking certain actions. A municipal governing
body may, for example, decide that a public hearing needs to be held on
proposed ordinances dealing with certain subjects; on proposed projects
over a certain amount of money; or on certain capital expenditures. Even
in the absence of a rule or ordinance requiring a public hearing, the
governing body can agree on a case-by-case basis to postpone a decision
until after a public hearing is held.