Brian Ohm

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Selected Projects


Professor Ohm’s principal projects relate to his research, teaching, and outreach interests on the legal and institutional framework for planning.  As the UW-Extension specialist on planning law, his projects focus primarily on Wisconsin.

Since 2007, Professor Ohm has been engaged in a longitudinal study examining Wisconsin appellate court cases related to planning.  In conjunction with this study, he has been providing monthly case law updates for the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Planning Association since 2007.  The monthly updates are available on the “Law and Legislation” page of the Chapter’s website.

In addition, many of Professor Ohm’s projects address the need to revise and update state enabling laws that govern local planning. This work resulted in Wisconsin’s 1999 comprehensive planning law (sometimes referred to as the “smart growth” law).  For additional information about the law visit the “Comprehensive Planning”  pages of the Wisconsin Department of Administration website.  Since 1999, Professor Ohm has been involved with several amendments to the 1999 law and has worked with hundreds of communities and individuals to help them fully understand the law. He is currently working with Extension colleges to evaluate the status of comprehensive planning in Wisconsin.  

Professor Ohm work in Wisconsin has also extended to planning enabling law reform elsewhere.  He was the principal investigator for a major project funded by the Minnesota Forest Resources Council looking at reforming Minnesota’s planning enabling laws in an effort to address forest fragmentation and has worked with scholars in China related to reforming the eviction and demolition processes. 

  One section of Wisconsin’s Comprehensive Planning law required that the University of Wisconsin Extension develop a model ordinance for a traditional neighborhood development and an ordinance for a conservation subdivision. Professor Ohm was asked to take responsibility for these ordinances. These ordinances were approved by the Wisconsin Legislature in July 2001.

A Model Ordinance for a Traditional Neighborhood Development
An Ordinance for a Conservation Subdivision

In addition to these projects, Professor Ohm was the principle investigator of a grant from the National Sea Grant Law Center to evaluate local strategies to manage Great Lakes coastal hazards and to develop model ordinances for local Great Lakes communities. The ordinances incorporate recent innovations in methodologies for understanding bluff stability and computer visualization of Great Lakes coastal hazards. URPL Affiliate Faculty David Hart was the co-principal investigator on the project. He is currently working on another project with David to evaluate the current status of plans and programs related to coastal hazards around the Great Lakes.

He also was the co-principal investigator (along with Mike Adams, Emeritus Professor in Botany) of two grants from the United States Department of Education focusing on trans-Atlantic comparisons.  The first focused on urban ecology education and the management of cultural landscapes in Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain.  The second focused on comparing education about U.S. and German, Dutch, and Spanish institutions involved in environmental policy and culminated in an international conference in Madison in September 2008.

Finally he was also principal investigator of a project exploring coastal management issues in Estonia funded by the National Research Council of the National Academies INTREU grants program.