Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Planning & Development

Density Study

A farm field with a small barn in the background and soybean in the foreground

You have questions:

  • How many Housing Density Rights (splits) do I have?
  • How can I use my HDRs (splits)?
  • Can I build on a parcel?
  • What does "1 house per 35 acres" really mean?

Each town has their own set of rules, the quickest way to the answers is to talk to the Dane County Planner that knows your Town and send in a Density Study Application.

The cost for a density study report is $120. Checks should be made payable to Dane County Planning and Development, electronic payment is available through Square (call 608-266-4266 or email ). Mailed applications and payment should be sent to the address above (room 116 of city-county building). Please allow 3-6 weeks to process your request. A copy of the report will be mailed to the landowner, the applicant (if different from the landowner) and the town clerk. 

Dane County towns that participate in the state Farmland Preservation Program have adopted comprehensive plans that include land use policies establishing a limitation on the amount of residential and, in some cases commercial, development that can be created in designated agricultural preservation areas.

These policies are commonly called “density policies,” since they limit the total density of new development permitted in particular areas of the town. Density policies vary from town to town, and may be changed over time by amendments to the respective town's comprehensive plan. The county adopts each town plan as a component of the Dane County Comprehensive Plan and assists towns in administering their density and other land use policies.

Monthly Count of Density Studies

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Density policies establish the total number of potential residential or commercial development opportunities based on acreage owned at a certain point in time, rather than the acreage currently owned. A density study report will therefore show farm acreage owned at the time the particular town adopted it’s density policy, or some other date specified in the town plan. The report will calculate the total number of potential density units, or lots (a/k/a, "development rights" or “splits”) permitted under the town density policy, and the number of dwelling units or lots created to date since the policy went into effect. Density study reports should be considered working drafts that do not guarantee town or county approval of a particular land division, rezone, or development proposal. In some cases, additional information, or interpretation by town or county officials and staff may be necessary.
Determination of original ownership boundaries and acreage values depends on historic and current records located at the Dane County Department of Planning and Development (such as the county Geographic Information System, archived plat books, tax records, zoning permit data and recorded Certified Survey Maps). All acreage shown is net of public rights-of-way, unless otherwise specified, and is derived from the county’s digital parcel database, which is usually more accurate than acreage amounts reported in tax assessment rolls. If you have information that the original farm boundaries, acreage or number of lot splits taken so far shown in the density report is incorrect, please call the Planning Division at 266-4251 to schedule an appointment to review your information.

Density study applications that are speculative in nature (i.e.., not associated with a pending rezone petition) will only be accepted if submitted by the landowner(s), an authorized agent of the owner(s) (e.g.., realtor, attorney), or with the landowner(s) written consent.