Committee forwards shoreland ordinance changes to County Board
Proposed revisions to be considered Jan. 16 for implementation April 1
BY KEVIN BONESKE
After holding the seventh public hearing Wednesday on proposed changes to Oneida County’s shoreland protection ordinance, the county’s Planning and Development Committee has forwarded the measure to the full County Board for possible final approval next Tuesday.
Counties that currently have shoreland zoning ordinance standards more restrictive than now allowed by the state can no longer enforce the stricter standards following enactment of the biennial state budget in 2015. The resolution, which was unanimously backed by the committee, calls for having the amended ordinance take effect April 1.
The revised shoreland ordinance has had four subsequent public hearings since the first three hearings almost a year ago because of a combination of changes made to the measure and questions raised about the proper public notice being given for those subsequent hearings.
For instance, upon holding the sixth hearing Oct. 24, when representatives of the Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association suggested revisions to the proposed ordinance, committee members voted 3-2 in favor of changing the setback for excavation near a shoreland wetland from 5 to 15 feet. Because of amending the measure, county corporation counsel Brian Desmond recommended holding a seventh hearing.
The provision discussed the most by committee members Wednesday after they took public comment related to having single-family residential zoning around Indian and Sugar Camp lakes, even though the town of Sugar Camp itself is unzoned. Desmond previously provided the committee with a legal opinion in which he raised concerns about whether that zoning designation would stand up to a court challenge in light of the changes in state law.
Those concerns were also expressed Wednesday by committee member Jack Sorensen, who questioned committee chairman Scott Holewinski, who is also the town chairman in Sugar Camp, as to why the town wouldn’t adopt its own zoning to prevent a legal challenge.
“As much as I’d like to see those two lakes retained as single-family residential, as much as I would like to see Sugar Camp comprehensively zoned – which will never happen, according to Mr. Holewinski – if we include that (zoning for) those two lakes, we are opening ourselves up to having to defend any potential litigation,” Sorensen said.
Holewinski, who noted the sentiment expressed at the public hearings was to keep the area around those two lakes zoned single-family residential, said the area around Sugar Camp Lake had been zoned about 30 years ago by the county and not the town, which subsequently zoned the area around Indian Lake. He called on the County Board to support the zoning for those lakes.
“I think this County Board should stand up for what they did years ago and not punish those lake owners for this,” Holewinski said. “Now, let’s see what happens.”
The shoreland protection provisions in the proposed ordinance amendment 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 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.