Forest: uncertainty surrounds zoning administrator and BOA

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF FOREST — The Forest Town Board is still uncertain about who would qualify, exactly, to serve on the township’s board of adjustment and as the zoning administrator.

The Forest Town Board discussed the township’s proposed zoning ordinance at the September 17 meeting.

 The five-member board of adjustment and the zoning administrator would be positions created when the Forest Town Board adopts a comprehensive zoning ordinance for the township.

The BOA also would have two members to serve as alternates.

One question is whether the zoning administrator can “overlap” with the town board, the plan commission and the board of adjustment, said Jaime Junker, town chair.

In other words, would it be legally possible for the zoning administrator to be a member of the town board or the plan commission or the board of adjustment, or perhaps even a member of all three?

The Town of Forest’s attorney said she was not sure if it would be a conflict of interest, said Rick Steinberger, town supervisor and chair of the plan commission.

Junker wondered when the zoning administrator, the board of adjustment and the alternates would have to be appointed.

The town board can wait until the final adoption of the zoning ordinance, and then the positions must be filled, Steinberger said.

County comments

The Town of Forest has already forwarded the zoning ordinance to St. Croix County for review and comments, has received comments, has revised the ordinance and has sent it back and received it with a second set of comments.

After the zoning ordinance has been revised, the plan commission will recommend that the town board adopt the ordinance, and then the zoning ordinance will be sent to St. Croix County again for final review and approval.

Most of the comments from the county have been related to items of consistency, Steinberger noted.

The zoning administrator will be appointed by the town board, will advise applicants on the permit application, will inspect properties, will make a recommendation to the town board, and once the town board approves the permit, the zoning administrator will issue the permit.

Land use permits can be appealed to the board of adjustment.

The board of adjustment also will make decisions on special exceptions.

Volunteers

Town supervisor Pat Scepurek wondered if the town board planned to use a list of volunteers to fill the board of adjustment and the zoning administrator positions and how town board members would go about determining who is qualified for the positions.

Junker acknowledged that a volunteer list could be used but that he also would recruit town residents to fill the positions.

The people who attend town board meetings or plan commission meetings and make comments would be the residents who should be recruited for the board of adjustment and the zoning administrator, Junker said.

Only about a dozen people attended the September 17 Forest Town Board meeting.

In the past, meetings in the Forest Town Hall have attracted more than a hundred people, enough so that it was less than standing-room-only in the town hall with people standing outside the door to try to hear what was going on inside at the meeting.

During many of the filled-to-overflowing meetings, those who were the most vocal and made the most comments were those not in favor of the proposed Highland Wind Farm wind turbine project.

Representatives for Highland Wind Farm and town residents who were in favor of the project usually were not allowed to speak or were shouted down when they tried to speak.

Junker said that it seemed to him that the zoning administrator could probably be a town board member.

Scepurek noted that the board of adjustment members and alternates should not be town board members.

Scepurek also noted that the town board is going to have to figure out how to budget for paying the zoning administrator and the board of adjustment.

The Town of Forest has until the end of December to adopt a comprehensive zoning ordinance.

A public hearing on the proposed zoning ordinance for the Town of Forest is scheduled for Wednesday, October 9, at 7 p.m.

The Forest Town Board could adopt the zoning ordinance following the public hearing.

If the town board asks for changes, the zoning ordinance would have to go back to the plan commission following the public hearing.

Comments

Here are a few of the issues identified by St. Croix County regarding the Town of Forest’s proposed zoning ordinance:

• Clarification is needed for the one-mile notification for conditional use permits. The plan commission recommends that all property within one mile of the entire boundary of the property in question receive notification of a request for a conditional use permit.

• Permitted uses that are allowed in a zoned area typically do not need a permit. The plan commission is recommending that a permit be required in the Town of Forest even for permitted uses.

• A previous version of the ordinance would have allowed each landowner to have no more than two yard sales each year, but the plan commission is now recommending that it be changed to no more than four yard sales per year.

• The definition of a subdivision in the Town of Forest is not consistent with the state or the county. The state does not set a limit on acres, but the county has set the limit at 35 acres. The 20-acre limit in the Town of Forest was established in 2003 when the subdivision ordinance was first adopted, Steinberger said.