Alarm Bells From Lakes Advocates About Shoreland Zoning Move

Jun 6, 2017

Pelican Lake
Credit Wikimedia Commons Mark Miller

A state legislator has floated the idea of making shore land zoning optional and that idea has raised alarm bells.

Republican Representative Adam Jarchow offered a proposal to be inserted into the currently-debated budget bill that would make shore land zoning optional for Wisconsin counties. The Wisconsin Counties Association also supports the bill.

The president of the Plum Lake Association in Vilas county and Director of the Wisconsin Shoreland Initiative, John Richter, says the proposal is similar to a last-minute proposal two years ago that cut back on county control of shore land zoning.

That proposal was put into the budget rather than going through standard public input methods including public hearings...

"....if there is legislation as historic as this would be, changing the way zoning is handled in the state of Wisconsin, it should go before the legislature. It should be something that all 130-plus legislators get a chance to look at. There should be public hearing, there should be listening sessions. It should be thoroughly considered because anything that affects the shore land affects the lakes...."

Counties have been reworking their local rules  after the change two years ago, largely cutting stronger county shore land laws  to less stringent DNR standards.

Richter says giving counties the option to eliminate shore land zoning could be trouble....

"...not having any zoning on our lakes shores would be a disaster. It would lead to over development and the wrong kind of development with the wrong kinds of properties. That is something that needs a thorough vetting is someone is going to consider ending zoning. The other thing it does is take away the ability of the DNR to influence what counties are doing. DNR was set up to be the authority on what happens on our lakes. Anything that happens to shore land property is going to impact the lakes...."

When shore land zoning changes were passed two years ago, it was said to make the rules uniform around the state.

Lakes advocates say waters in northern Wisconsin are not the same as in more agricultural areas and need to have regulations that fit their needs.

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