Planning Commission favors disallowing temporary tent structures for storage
Ordinance change would require City Council approval
By KEVIN BONESKE
An ongoing issue in Rhinelander, temporary tent structures being used for storage, may not be allowed at all in the future, even with a permit, if a motion backed Tuesday by the city’s Planning Commission receives final approval by the City Council.
City fire chief/building inspector Terry Williams, who noted temporary tent structures are now allowed in the city for up to 120 days per calendar year with a permit for which there is no charge, said he wanted to wait and see what direction the commission wanted to go on dealing with the tents before he did anything.
“If we are going to allow these structures to be up for the 120-day period, they will have to come down on the 121st day,” said City Council president George Kirby. “If we’re making everybody else abide by rules, we have to make the tent people do this…. As long as we’re being harsh with everybody else, we also have to do the same thing with the temporary structures.”
Williams, who noted most temporary tent structures are used for storage during the winter months, had conducted a citywide inspection last summer when he reported about half of the 43 properties with “ordinance issues” had tent structures up without a permit.
Commission member Sandra Bergman, who noted she favored efforts to beautify the city, also questioned why temporary tent structures are now allowed for only 120 days in a calendar year.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Bergman said.
When the ordinance was put into place, Williams said temporary tent structures were limited to 120 days a year so that “you didn’t have these tent structures popping up all over the city.”
“You don’t have many of them now, but that was by design,” Williams said. “It was so that you didn’t have every other neighbor in the city popping up a $200 tarp structure.”
Commission member Mark Pelletier said he opposed extending the allowable time to have temporary tent structures in place to 180 days per year, which could result in a structure staying in place for 360 consecutive days over two years.
“The neighbors shouldn’t have to deal with it 24/7, that’s what it’s about,” he said.
Regardless if the time period for having temporary tent structures up was 120 or 180 days in a calendar year, Kirby said that wouldn’t accomplish anything because with the weather in Rhinelander, a lot of the items wouldn’t be able to come out of storage now and a tent put up Jan. 1 would have to come down if allowed up for only 120 days.
“That’s your 120 days for 2017,” Kirby said. “Now what is he going to do in October when the snow starts flying again?… We’ve got to come up with a different set of rules and regulations. We’re either going to have to abandon them, or (allow them up year-round).”
In the event temporary tent structures were allowed up throughout the year, Kirby suggested charging an annual permit fee of $50.
Bergman, who noted she favored no longer allowing the temporary tent structures, also suggested allowing larger storage sheds, which don’t match the architecture of the primary buildings, from the current 10×10 feet to possibly 10×15 feet.
However, city administrator Keith Kost suggested the commission members not “jump into something else right away” if they wanted to no longer allow temporary tent structures in the city.
“See how it plays out,” Kost said. “Because you’re then going to put the inspection department in the same position it is now, except we’re calling it a different structure. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Commission members agreed to recommend an ordinance change to no longer allow temporary tent structures in the city.
Williams noted the inspection department for the time being would no longer be issuing new permits for temporary tent structures so that none would be allowed up in the city upon a change taking effect this summer with final approval by the City Council.