Boathouse issue heads back to committee
There’s no gray area when it comes to constructing boathouses on area lakes and that fact played out at the Tuesday Oneida County board of supervisor’s meeting.
The boathouse issue is one that has been a point of debate for many months. Last January, a resolution was drafted outlining the restrictions and requirements a riparian owner would have to comply with to build a boathouse. Some of those include that the structure be at least 10 feet off shore; that it would have a flat roof; that there would be no railings or stairs going to the roof to prevent people from relaxing or partying there; no plumbing is allowed; it can’t be used as a living facility and it can’t exceed a height of 12 feet.
Karl Jennrich, Oneida County’s planning and zoning director, told the supervisors that a public hearing was held in Woodruff on the boathouse issue in July and that 22 people attended it. Of those 22 people, 13 spoke in favor of allowing the construction of boathouses, 21 people voted to allow the structures and only one was opposed. That was Oneida County Supervisor Bob Martini.
Martini has a strong opposition to seeing boathouses built along the shores of Oneida County lakes. His main issue is environmental damage.
“By allowing boathouses to be built within 35 feet you are allowing excavation right at the water’s edge,” he said. “This is the most sensitive area for lake habitats. We are the only county in the state with no setbacks for boathouses. This is part of a continual erosion of shoreline protection.”
He then made an amendment to the resolution that would require boathouses to be setback at least 35 feet from shore.
Another opponent of boathouse structures was Joel Knutson, who lives on Crescent Lake and is a town of Crescent supervisor. He told the board he didn’t think the public hearing was well publicized enough to generate a wider demographic of attendees. He even went so far as to photo shop real images of pristine shoreline pictures to include boathouses and distributed them to the board.
“These structures will change the entire character of our shorelines,” he said. “I think there should be another public hearing and it should be advertised better. Notices should have gone out to lake associations and fishing groups.”
Jennrich told the board he publicized the public hearing in accordance with the county’s requirements and that lake groups are not required to be notified of such meetings.
It was publicized in the paper and posted at required places,” Jennrich said. “It’s not a requirement that lake groups be notified.”
Supervisor Scott Holewinski, a proponent for boathouse construction, told the board the meeting was well advertised and the people that were opposed just didn’t show up.
“We held a public hearing and the public was well informed,” he said. “It was a landslide in favor of boathouses and we should listen to what they (the public) wants. You can’t pick and choose the outcome you want at a public hearing.”
Supervisor Jack Martinson agreed.
“We had a public hearing on this and the people are for it,” he said. “This amendment is not right either. I’ve never seen a boat travel 35 feet onto shore for storage. Landowners are the owners of their land. Let them do what they want with their own property.”
Billy Fried had another concern especially with the amendment.
“If we pass this amendment then we are changing the facts that were presented at the public hearing and that is unjust,” he said. “We should keep the resolution intact as it was presented at the public hearing.”
Brian Desmond, corporate counsel, told the board if the amendment was approved, another public hearing on the issue would have to be held.
“The law requires a public hearing on changing zoning laws,” he said.
After discussing the issue for close to two hours the board voted against the 35 foot setback amendment. Those supervisors voting in favor included, Jim Intrepidi, Romelle Vandervest, Jack Sorensen, Tom Rudolph, Carol Pederson, Martini, Bob Metropulos and Candy Sorenson.
After that vote, the debate continued on the original resolution. Tom Handrick, a local builder and landscaper, spoke to the board about the ordinance.
“I was at the public hearing in July,” he said. “The people in the county have spoken. Martini brings up a lot of things that puzzle people such as this 35 foot setback. It’s ridiculous. Also, I see state owned property eroding into lakes. Mr. Martini should be at DNR meetings trying to figure out a way to stop that. You people have meeting after meeting and you people get paid to come to these meetings, I don’t. There is no environmental damage when these are constructed properly and I have facts to back that up.”
Supervisor Bob Mott suggested that maybe the resolution should have provisions so that “boathouses will be built responsibly.” He made a motion that the structures be built to blend into the natural surroundings.
“How do you control that?” Holewinski said. “Build white ones in the winter and brown ones in the fall?”
That motion died for lack of a second. In the end the board decided to send it back to the Planning and Development committee for further revision and hold another public hearing in the future when those revisions are made. Those opposed to sending the resolution back to the committee and to approve it as is included, Martinson, Jerry Shidell, Greg Berard, Greg Oettinger, Mike Timmons, Holewinski, Fried and Ted Cushing. The resolution will go back for revision.
In other business:
• The board took a few minutes to reminiscence about their relationships with Supervisor Gary Baier who passed away from cancer Dec. 15.
• Passed a resolution requiring towns and cities to pay for assessments on properties that are being foreclosed on.
• Tabled three resolutions that would address space concerns for the Land and Water Conservation Department and the UW-Extension.
• Discussed business incubators.