Update of city land development practices and zoning ordinances begins
By Lori Adler, reporter
The Rhinelander Planning Commission met Tuesday and was introduced to Mark Roffers of MDRoffers Consulting. Roffers, whose contract was approved by the common council in July, appeared before the commission to explain the land development and zoning update services he will be providing for the city.
Roffers is hired to help the city with two separate projects: to provide an audit of land development services and to update zoning ordinances. The first project, an audit of land development services, will include a review of the city’s policies and procedures regarding anything from building permits to major development proposals. The audit will be completed by interviewing both staff and leadership and will include a review of the application process used by the public as well as the approval process conducted by the city.
“The outcomes, what we’re hoping to target,” Roffers explained, “is to provide recommendations for how you might better align your plans and ordinances with your current practices and procedures, whether your practices ought to change or the ordinances and plans ought to change, to match your stated goals and objectives for the future of the city.”
When finished, the audit will help the city to recognize areas where changes or updates might be needed. It will also provide a draft land development policies and procedures manual and a guide for first-time or occasional public users. The policy and procedures manual will create consistency among employees who deal with land development matters, and the guide will help the public to understand the process of applying for land development permits.
Using the recommendations provided by the audit as well as input from staff and members of the public, Roffers and the planning commission will then begin the long process of updating the ordinance code.
“The zoning ordinance update,” Roffers added, “will certainly be an opportunity to execute some of those recommendations for perhaps better alignment of expectations with practices.”
As a beginning point for the land development discussion, Roffers asked the commission for input regarding what individuals felt were important goals of this project.
“I look for a process that stands the test of time beyond us or any interchangeable parts, something that we can recognize and not do because we’ve always done but do because it’s done right,” Mayor Chris Frederickson said, further adding, “Parts change but the direction shouldn’t be that far off.”
Other board members expressed a desire to use land development and zoning in conjunction with the differing needs of the city’s varied populations, whether those differences be economic, social, or age.
“I’m looking at the younger generation, my age and a little bit younger,” commission member Matt Wocelka noted, “How are we going to keep the people my age and a little bit younger in the community? What can we do to keep them here?”
In reply to Wocelka’s statement, board member Sandra Bergman responded, “Your comment is so appropriate because we are trying to entice people to buy into the neighborhoods that exist, and yet, on the other hand, we have people that are going to age in place in their homes, and we’ve got to find a balance for change.”
Roffers’ land development services audit has already begun and is expected to conclude by the end of October. He will then be ready to begin the review and update process of the zoning ordinances. This process is expected to take about a year with a tentative completion date of November 2020.
Wellhead Protection Plan
Recent concern over water quality has prompted a review of the city’s wellhead protection plan. City Administrator Daniel Guild provided the planning commission with some background information on the plan. Originally drafted with the help of Wisconsin Rural Water Association, the city council approved the plan in 2015. However, it was never adopted as part of the city’s comprehensive plan. Guild explained that he will present a resolution at the October planning commission meeting for approval. Following a 30-day period of public review and comment, the resolution will then be brought to the common council for approval. Guild noted that this process allows for any interested parties to have sufficient time to review the plan and provide feedback.
“My suggestion is for citizens and officials that have an interest in protecting groundwater, an interest in protecting surface water, who are passionate about water quality issues,” Guild explained, “that they should get themselves a copy of this plan, they should read it, and I would really strongly encourage them to make recommendations and suggestions for adjustments to us here at City Hall.”
Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan
The planning commission approved a resolution to adopt the bicycle and pedestrian master plan as presented by the Northcentral Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. The resolution will now begin a 30-day public review and comment period and will then be brought before the common council for public hearing.
Central School Site Plan
The site plan to create an additional parking area at the rear of Central School was approved by the planning commission Tuesday. In addition to providing more parking slots in general, the parking area will also include two additional handicapped parking spaces.
The next meeting of the Rhinelander Planning Commission is scheduled for Tuesday, October 1, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.