Online snafu affects public hearing process
Committee to schedule sixth hearing on shoreland ordinance
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Questions over having the proper notice for the fifth public hearing held this year on proposed changes to Oneida County’s shoreland protection ordinance prompted the county’s Planning and Development Committee to call for a sixth public hearing being scheduled.
The notice for Wednesday’s hearing before the committee stated copies of the proposed ordinance would be available at the county’s planning and zoning offices in Rhinelander and Minocqua, as well as online on the county’s website. Though paper copies were available at both offices, problems with the revisions being accessible as they should have online drew harsh criticism from William C. Liebert of Liebert Architectural Design.
“I’m going to file a complaint if I have to,” Liebert said at Wednesday’s public hearing.
County planning and zoning director Karl Jennrich informed the committee he was able to view the proposed ordinance when it was posted online more than two weeks earlier and also discussed what transpired when a problem accessing the document on the website was reported.
Jennrich said county information technology services director Jack Flint informed him the county’s website is hosted by the state, and if the uploaded file had appeared successfully, it should appear forever.
However, Jennrich said Flint also informed him the file displaying the proposed ordinance also was larger than state-imposed file size limit, which could contribute to the problem.
In an effort to get the shoreland zoning revisions to appear the website before Wednesday’s meeting, Jennrich said an employee from the planning and zoning department send a document to IT services to place on the website, but that file wasn’t the correct zoning amendment, after which the correct document was sent to IT services to post.
“The county didn’t do it purposely to mislead anyone,” Jennrich said.
Given the number of people on hand for Wednesday’s hearing, committee chairman Scott Holewinski said those who appeared to speak would be allowed to do so and another public hearing would be scheduled at a later date, likely sometime in late September to allow time for that hearing to be properly noticed.
The changes in the county ordinance are being made in response to revisions in state law included in the biennial budget from two years ago. 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 shoreland protection provisions apply to structures and properties within 1,000 feet of the ordinary high water mark (OHWM) of a lake and/or 300 feet from the OHWM of a navigable river or stream.
The committee, which has been going through the planned changes with the county’s planning and zoning department, first 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.
In response to comments at the first three public hearings, committee members made changes to the proposed ordinance and, acting upon the advice of county corporation counsel Brian Desmond, scheduled a fourth public hearing at the Courthouse on June 21 when many of the comments expressed had been is support of keeping single-family residential zoning around Indian and Sugar Camp lakes, even though the town of Sugar Camp itself is unzoned.
The committee’s public hearing process was also previously questioned by Liebert, who urged the committee to have the June 21 public hearing “wiped clean and you start fresh” after he found that notice of public hearing confusing.
Desmond then advised the committee to supersede the two previous ordinance amendments on shoreland zoning with new language while noting the comments previously made would be taken into consideration.
Liebert said he had “no interest in being an obstructionist in this process” while also noting, because of what he has experienced this summer, he is “done dealing with this chaos.”
“The corporation counsel had suggested that you are under your legal authority through the fact that the document exists in a hard copy in the zoning office,” he said. “Well that’s fine, but you’ve also set precedent by providing the agendas, providing all the information you have, putting the definitions page on the web, and so therefore the precedent should be that I should (be able to) also download the ordinance amendment…”
Testimony from others who appeared at Wednesday’s hearing included those unhappy with the change in state law in which counties are no longer allowed to have shoreland zoning standards stricter than the state minimum.
The county is able to regulate the size of boathouses under the revisions in state law, but can’t prohibit them outright.
After the first three public hearings, committee members revised the wording related to boathouses so that on lakes less than 500 acres, rivers and streams, the maximum width of a new boathouse may not exceed 14 feet or a maximum footprint of 336 square feet. On lakes 500 acres or more, flowages and chains, the maximum width of a new boathouse may not exceed 24 feet or a maximum footprint of 720 square feet.
Bob Mott, who is a county supervisor and also the vice president of the Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association, presented recommended changes to the shoreland zoning amendment on behalf of the OCLRA.
Along with recommending the 720-square-foot maximum be lowered for boathouses on lakes 500 acres and larger, Mott noted the other changes the OCLRA favors include:
- Replacing a provision in the proposed ordinance allowing a 5-foot setback from wetlands for excavation with the 25-foot setback contained in the previous ordinance.
- Eliminating a provision allowing averaging of setbacks from the OHWM for construction of principal structures where there is an existing principal structure in only one direction.
- Requiring internally drained pervious areas that are installed to be engineered, monitored and maintained, not simply established and maintained as now stated in the ordinance.
- Requiring the inspection of a site prior to the issuance of any shoreyard alteration permit.
One of the additional recommendations presented by the OCLRA calls for adding staff to do inspections because of how the change in state law has affected protections on lakes and streams.
Committee members backed a staffing request for next year to add two new zoning technicians, one in the Rhinelander office and the other in the Minocqua office, at an estimated annual cost of $68,306 to $74,663 each.
The committee members, who also questioned how those positions could be funded, discussed the possibility of raising permit fees to generate additional revenue, though they took no action on the fees at Wednesday’s meeting.