Reducing boathouse size favored on small lakes
Another public hearing to be held on proposed change to shoreland zoning
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Oneida County’s Planning and Development Committee still isn’t finished with the matter of the allowable square footage for boathouses as it finalizes changes to the county’s zoning and shoreland protection ordinance.
The changes in the county ordinance are being made in response to revisions in state law, for which counties that currently have shoreland zoning ordinance standards more restrictive than established in the applicable state law and regulations can no longer enforce the stricter standards. The county is able to regulate the size of boathouses under the revisions, but can’t prohibit them outright.
The County Board last year initially favored allowing boathouses to be built with a maximum footprint of 1,008 square feet, but in response to concerns expressed at last November’s County Board meeting about the size of boathouses and their possible effects on the environment, the committee then favored including language in the revisions limiting boathouses to 720 square feet.
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 the public hearings and commented on boathouses found 720 square feet still 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.
“I don’t think there was a single person who said they supported larger boathouses,” said Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association president Bob Martini. “They all said smaller.”
At Wednesday’s committee meeting, all five members favored limiting the maximum square footage on boathouses on lakes that are less than 100 acres and not part of a lake chain to 336 square feet, which would allow a boathouse built 14X24 feet.
“I think it’s an appropriate step to make,” said County Board chairman Dave Hintz, one of the committee members.
However, Hintz’s motion to limit the maximum size of any boathouse bult in the county to 600 square feet was defeated by the committee 3-2 with only Jack Sorensen, an outspoken critic of boathouses, supporting Hintz and Billy Fried, Mike Timmons and Scott Holewinski voting in opposition.
“Dave’s motion is doing something significant, and it’s (a reduction of) 120 square feet,” Sorensen said. “That really doesn’t amount to that much.”
“So we have a 24X25-foot building max now…,” Timmons said before voting against the motion. “A good-sized pontoon boat won’t fit.”
Before a smaller allowable square footage could be approved for boathouses built on smaller lakes, however, county corporation counsel Brian Desmond said the committee would have to hold another public hearing. Committee members noted they favored holding a single public hearing to do that, rather than three hearings as had been done to consider changes to the zoning and shoreland protection ordinance in general.
However, the lake acreage as to what would call for a smaller boathouse size could still be subject to change. Town of Sugar Camp resident Dave Noel, who spoke during the public comment period at the end of Wednesday’s meeting, suggested increasing the lake acreage to 500 for which boathouses would be limited to 336 square feet.
“I think you all know that I’ve looked at this Oneida County data a lot – I know all these lakes – and there are not very many 100-acre lakes that are not attached to a chain,” said Noel, who put together a study on how water quality could affect property values in the county. “It might sound great (to reduce boathouse square footage on lakes less than 100 acres), but you’re not doing anything there.”
Holewinski, who chairs the committee, asked Noel to provide the committee for its next meeting with research on the number of lakes in the county less than 500 acres.
The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for April 6.