shoreland zoning GuentherDillingen

For many years, the State of Wisconsin allowed counties to make rules that were stricter than state law regarding shoreland zoning issues.

In 2015, the legislature passed Act 55, which prohibited the counties from enacting shoreland zoning rules stricter than state statutes. This week, the Oneida County Board discussed making it's pier rules conform with the much more relaxed state standards.

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The Wisconsin State Supreme Court has accepted a zoning case from the Town of Newbold for review.

At issue is whether towns may regulate minimum lot sizes in their shoreland areas without regard to state shoreland zoning standards through their subdivision authority.

Indian Lake Association

Both the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly have passed bills that clarify shoreland zoning for towns.

The author of the Assembly version is Representative Rob Swearingen of Rhinelander..

"The Town of Sugar Camp wanted to partially zone some land around their lakes. They went to the county and they both agreed, but there was a question as to whether they could do it. It sounds like they got hold of one of the state's attorneys and the opinion came back kind of gray..."

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Out-going Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has determined that Oneida County can zone shorelands for single family housing in areas of general zoning.

The Attorney General's opinion was asked by Oneida County as explained by Corporation Counsel Brian Desmond...

"...The main question revolved around two lakes in the Town of Sugar Camp that have single-family zoning around them and they're the only two lakes in Sugar Camp that had that zoning and Sugar Camp does not have the general zoning..."

Max Pixel

Last fall, the state changed statutes regarding short-term rentals but a local inspector says that change in the law did not change required inspection by the health department. The change allowed short-term rentals in places they weren't allowed before.

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A joint effort between the Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association and Oneida County will produce information about shorelines and lakes for property owners.

O.C.L.R.A. president Bob Martini says they've been working with Oneida county to try to strengthen the shoreland protection ordinance. Recently, the Oneida County Board voted on the most recent update, caused by state legislated changes in shoreland zoning. The state approved going with less restrictive standards, and cut back on counties to make rules stronger than the state rules.

Oneida County Land and Water Conservation has received grant money to help shoreland landowners preserve their shorelines and in so doing help preserve water quality.

County Conservationist Michele Sadauskas says the grant is for $40,000 from the Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection for lakeshore restoration projects.

The property owner partner with the county to preserve up to 35 feet from the shoreline.... tpsdave

The Oneida County Planning and Development committee is hosting another public hearing Wednesday afternoon on revisions to its shoreland protection ordinance. A local group says the county still could do more to help protect local waters.

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A local water advocate says a public hearing this week in Rhinelander is an opportunity to be heard on shoreland zoning changes.

Wednesday, Oneida County Planning and Development is hosting the hearing at the county courthouse to hear input on changes to it's shoreland protection ordinance. Counties have complained that they lost the right to put stronger restrictions on shoreland protection after the legislature stripped the counties of that, instead saying a uniform and less restrictive DNR code would be established.

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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.

One Oneida County board supervisor is asking  supervisors on the Planning and Development committee to defy a state mandate concerning shoreland zoning.

In 2015, the legislature's Joint Finance Committee included in the budget a provision rolling back local county protections on shoreland zoning to a standard size that applies across all counties, be they with few lakes or more than a thousand like Oneida county. State Senator Tom Tiffany at the time said it was a move to make it easier to regulate shoreland zoning by the state.


Oneida County Planning and Development committee held three public hearings last week on the complex changes to the county's shoreland zoning ordinance.

Prior to the last state budget, the counties were allowed to have shoreland zoning rules stronger than what were considered minimum state regulations. Those rules cover everything from structure proximity to the shoreline to boathouses to height of buildings and much more. When the change happened in the last two years, the counties were ordered by the state to get their rules to conform to the less stringent state regulations.

Oneida County Lakes and River Association hopes the public comments on proposed changes in the county's shoreland zoning ordinance this week.

During the last budget cycle, the legislature stripped the counties of being able to regulate shoreland zoning beyond weaker state rules.

Public comments on changes in the Vilas County shoreland zoning ordinance as a result of Act 55 which reduced minimum lake frontage, expanded viewing corridors, and allowed both expansion and upgrading non-conforming structures had both supporters and opponents Monday before the county zoning committee.

Mary Platner of St. Germain said Act 55 was a step backward in protecting the lakes in Vilas County. She wants a return of local control to the county and to show the rest of the state how to be a leader in protecting lakes.

A Sugar Camp resident is presenting the results of a study he did in cooperation with Oneida County Land and Water Conservation and the Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association.

"The Economic Value of Lakes and Rivers in Oneida County" was authored by Sugar Camp resident Dave Noel. Noel gives us some highlights of his studies...

Noel will give the presentation next month to the Oneida County Board of Supervisors. Here is a link to the study.