By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — It has been several years in the making, but the Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee is now ready to forward the new proposed zoning code to the county board for a first reading.
The PR&D committee held a public hearing on the proposed comprehensive zoning revision September 10.
The county board will receive the proposed zoning ordinance for a first reading at the September 18 meeting, said Bob Walter, chair of the PR&D committee.
The county board will have a month to review the zoning ordinance and can take action on it at the October 16 meeting, he said.
Three options are available to the county board: adopt the new zoning ordinance; deny the new zoning ordinance; refer the ordinance back to the PR&D committee with instruction for amendments, Walter said.
About 20 people attended the public hearing. Most of them were town board members or town plan commission members.
The proposed zoning ordinance includes three residential districts (R1, R2, R3); Intensive Agriculture (IA); Primary Agriculture (PA); General Agriculture (GA); General Commercial; Light Industrial; Heavy Industrial; Shoreland Recreational; Non-metallic Mining Overlay District; and a Conservancy District.
Throughout the process of revising Dunn County’s zoning code, the PR&D committee has heard from various townships that they want a greater role in the granting of special exceptions, Walter said.
Walter, who is an attorney, said that he and the county’s corporation counsel, Scott Cox, disagreed about whether it was within the county’s power to require approval from a town board before a special exception could be granted.
Walter and Cox compromised, and the new zoning code will require the Zoning Board of Adjustment to consider any town board opinion given orally or in writing before granting or denying a special exception.
The procedure for a special exception will be that the application will be made to the zoning office, and the zoning office will immediately forward the application to the town clerk. Within 24 hours, a hard copy will be mailed to the town clerk.
The Board of Adjustment must then hold a public hearing within 30 to 60 days of receiving the complete application.
The township will have 30 to 60 days, plus ten days, to express an opinion about the special exception.
The reason the “plus ten days” was included is because if the BOA holds the public hearing on the 60th day after receiving the application, and the town board wants to wait until after the public hearing to give an opinion, the town board will then have time to submit an opinion to the BOA, Walter explained.
The Board of Adjustment must wait for an opinion from the township, and the Board of Adjustment must consider the opinion of the township, he said.
The PR&D committee also has agreed to narrow the number of special exceptions allowed in Primary Agriculture.
The PR&D committee approved a motion that storage facilities and processing plants on a farm must store or process what was produced on the farm where they are located.
In other words, storage and processing facilities cannot store or process agricultural products, such as grain or milk, that is produced on another farm.
Originally, the proposed zoning code would have allowed a minimum lot size in residential areas of a half acre, Walter said.
The PR&D committee approved increasing the minimum lot size in a residential area to one acre.
Neil Koch, a member of the Menomonie Town Board and a retired hydro-geologist, has been advocating that minimum rural residential lots be two acres for the purposes of separating wells and septic systems and protecting the groundwater.
Walter said the PR&D committee will explore what the county can do to monitor and protect groundwater.
The originally proposed zoning code also set a minimum size for a residential structure of 750 square feet.
The PR&D committee approved a motion to remove the minimum size for a residence.
Mark Warner, chair of the Town of Otter Creek, noted that Otter Creek has had a minimum lot size of five acres for many years, and that the five-acre minimum has worked very well.
The new zoning code sets a minimum lot size of one acre in all agricultural zones and restricts housing density to five houses for each 40-acre parcel.
“The five acre minimum lot size works well in Otter Creek, and we are leery of changing it (after all these years),” Warner said.
Under the new zoning code, townships can still set other minimum lot sizes in their subdivision standards, Walter said.
“If Otter Creek wants five acres, they can maintain that,” he said.
In an e-mail, a representative of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said that religious activities, schools and cemeteries cannot be permitted uses in agricultural districts and must be listed as special exceptions.
The PR&D committee agreed to make religious activities (churches), schools and cemeteries special exceptions.
DATCP must certify Dunn County’s agricultural zoning districts.
Walter closed the public hearing at the September 10 meeting but said that the PR&D committee would still accept written comments about the proposed new zoning code.
The proposed zoning code can be downloaded from the Dunn County web site.
Written comments can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to (715) 232-4099. Herrick can be reached at (715) 231-6529.