County Board rejects reduction in boathouse square footage
Resolution defeated 10-9, but issue still being considered
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Oneida County supervisor Bob Mott didn’t first succeed in limiting the square footage of boathouses built in the county, but he tried again at Tuesday’s County Board meeting.
Mott, who opposes the construction of boathouses to the current maximum allowable 1,008 square feet, had questioned at the board’s meeting in June whether the revisions approved at that time to the county’s shoreland protection ordinance as it relates to boathouses were best for the county’s waters when an amendment he introduced to limit boathouses to a maximum width of 20 feet was defeated 15-5.
For Tuesday’s meeting, he joined supervisor Jack Sorensen in sponsoring a resolution to limit boathouses to 480 square feet. Sugar Camp resident Kathy Noel, representing the Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association, appeared at the meeting in support of the resolution.
The effect of that resolution, had it passed, would have resulted in the county’s Planning and Development Committee holding a public hearing to consider the proposed change, and another public hearing would have been required if a different maximum square footage other than 480 was favored for adoption, said county corporation counsel Brian Desmond.
The 19 supervisors present to vote on the resolution were evenly split as they defeated the measure, 10-9, though that hasn’t ended the debate on allowable square footage for boathouses as the county continues the process of updating its shoreland protection ordinance in response to changes in state law affecting the authority counties have in the development of a shoreland ordinance.
Counties that currently have shoreland zoning ordinance standards that are more restrictive than established in the applicable state law and regulations can no longer enforce the stricter standards.
Mott noted the county still has the authority to regulate the size of boathouses when he made reference to a list of counties in the state with the maximum allowable square footage less than Oneida. He said “a more reasonable size” for boathouses would hopefully cut down on possible negative effects to the environment and consequently not result in waterfront property values decreasing.
To support his claims, Mott also made reference to an article written this year by Lynn Markham, a shoreland specialist with the University of Wisconsin Center for Land Use Education, who concluded, “Structures built close to the lake negatively affect the lake by causing erosion during construction, delivering pollutants from impervious surfaces, and removing wildlife habitat.”
“All those things says to me that the 480 (square foot maximum for boathouses) that we’re suggesting here is certainly reasonable, and I would urge the county board to vote for this change,” Mott said.
However, supervisor Scott Holewinski, who chairs the Planning and Development Committee, noted three public hearings had already been held on boathouses before revisions were approved this year by the County Board to allow boathouses of up to 1,008 square feet.
“It seems like what we’re doing is what a school referendum would do – keep coming back with the same issue until nobody shows up and somebody gets their way,” he said.
Holewinski said the committee decided to limit the size of boathouses so that no one could build one 150 feet wide on a lake.
“We did do our homework the first time,” he said. “I feel if this goes back to a public hearing, it’s going to come back just the way the other three did already. But we will take it back, if that’s what the County Board wants to do, again.”
County planning and zoning director Karl Jennrich said the 1,008 maximum square feet allowed for boathouses is the same as the maximum allowable square footage for constructing an accessory building on a vacant lot.
Another Planning and Development Committee member, supervisor Billy Fried, said the resolution Mott brought before the board had “great intention and it actually meets a lot of the goals that I’ve heard in discussions at committee, but the science is one-sided. It’s good science, but there’s also science that says if you let trees and leaves fall in the lake, your phosphorus count is going to be higher.”
“I think this resolution is too limiting, and it’s not fair to the taxpayers,” Fried said. “I think there’s a lot of assumptions, which may not always be true, and also lost in the conversation is, as we’re moving forward with the ordinance amendments, we’re changing how things are done. We are looking at storm water runoff. We do not want water running into the lake.”
Mott disputed Fried’s comments and called the county allowing boathouses of up to 1,008 square feet “a mistake.”
“If you at planning and zoning can come up with a reasonable alternative to 480 (square feet) – and sure as heck 1,008 is not a reasonable alternative, considering the information we have now that we did not have before – I would be open to listening to that,” he said.
County planning and zoning assistant director Pete Wegner, who noted the previous maximum footprint for boathouses was 720 square feet, said boathouses averaging from 500-1,000 square feet are now being built in the county.
County Board chairman Dave Hintz, who also sits on the Planning and Development Committee, said even with the resolution being defeated, the matter of allowable square footage for boathouses will be considered by the committee as it finalizes revisions to the shoreland protection ordinance.
“I also consider 1,008 (square feet for a boathouse) a bit large – even more than a bit,” Hintz said. “It’s something we have to thoughtfully consider what’s appropriate.”