Committee revising county code to comply with state law
BY KEVIN BONESKE
As Oneida County’s Planning and Development Committee puts the finishing touches on revisions to the county’s zoning and shoreland protection ordinance, one county supervisor unhappy with that process wants the county to have stricter standards than the state now allows.
The revisions in the county ordinance are being made in response to a state budget provision included two years ago, for which counties that currently have shoreland zoning ordinance standards more restrictive than now allowed in the applicable state law and regulations can no longer enforce the stricter standards.
When an update on the county’s efforts to implement changes to the shoreland zoning ordinance to comply with state law was presented at Tuesday’s County Board meeting by planning and zoning director Karl Jennrich, supervisor Bob Mott said those efforts “have failed every Oneida County citizen.”
“If one of you on the committee, in the end, on this Board of Supervisors, can stand up and say this rewrite is in the best interest of the protection of the lakes in Oneida County, I’d like you to stand up and say that,” Mott said. “We have been more protective in the past, because it was allowed, and now we’re supposed to all be at a minimum standard.”
Mott also made reference to the state’s Public Trust Doctrine as it relates to protecting waterways on the local level, noting the counties were allowed to have stricter standards than the minimum required by the state.
“Counties could make those local decisions for 35 years until Act 55 in 2015 took that away,” he said.
Mott challenged the committee to rewrite the shoreland protection ordinance to include language that goes beyond the minimum state standards.
“Without a whimper, the (Planning and Development Committee) has rolled over by lessening protections for the very thing that drives that tourism industry – Oneida County’s lakes, rivers and streams,” he said. “I would ask you to write the shoreland protection ordinance that protects those resources. It’s in the interest of Oneida County.”
Mott said the county should adopt stricter protections, informing the state of the reasons for doing so, and then possibly face having the state force the county to adopt the minimum standards.
“You have to make a decision if you want to do what’s best for the county, or go along with minimum standards for the state,” he said. “I would ask you to stand up and do the right thing for Oneida County.”
The committee, which has been going through the proposed ordinance changes with the county’s planning and zoning department, held public hearings Feb. 27 at the Woodruff Town Hall, March 1 in the Three Lakes Town Board Room and March 2 in the County Board Room of the Courthouse in Rhinelander.
Lake association members who attended those public hearings and commented on boathouses found 720 square feet too large for those structures in the interest of water quality protection. They have noted several other counties, including Vilas, limit boathouses to a smaller square footage. Counties are allowed to regulate the size of boathouses, but can’t prohibit them outright.
Since those public hearings, committee members have favored limiting the maximum square footage on boathouses on lakes that are less than 500 acres and not part of a lake chain to 336 square feet, which would allow a boathouse to be built 14 feet wide and 24 feet deep. The committee also favored keeping the maximum allowable boathouse square footage at 720 on lakes 500 acres and greater.
Before a smaller allowable square footage could be approved for boathouses on smaller lakes and other changes could be made to the shoreland protection ordinance, however, Jennrich said the committee would have to hold another public hearing.
“The changes that the public brought up necessitate the fact that we have to go back to public hearings and the public has the ability to comment on the proposed changes,” Jennrich said.
The committee has yet to finalize those changes, for which a public hearing hasn’t been set.