By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee is recommending that the county board approve new zoning maps.
The PRD committee recommended approval of the zoning maps at the October 7 meeting.
The Dunn County Board approved the new comprehensive zoning code in October of 2013.
In the year since then, Bob Colson, Dunn County planner and zoning administrator, has been working with town plan commissions and town boards to modify the General Agriculture maps to fit the particular township.
When the county board approved the new zoning code, all of the maps were of the “plain vanilla” variety in the form of General Agriculture, Colson said.
Most of 16 zoned townships in Dunn County are mostly zoned General Agriculture.
Much of the Town of Lucas, however, which is west of Menomonie, is zoned Primary Agriculture.
The Town of Grant, north of Colfax, is zoned Intensive Agriculture.
The Town of Wilson, northeast of Colfax, also is mostly zoned Primary Agriculture.
Each of the town plan commissions and the town boards have already approved the new zoning maps.
Adopting the amended zoning maps was on the agenda for the Dunn County Board’s October 15 meeting.
A total of six townships in Dunn County declined to adopt the county’s new comprehensive zoning code and are currently unzoned.
The unzoned townships are the Towns of New Haven, Sand Creek, Eau Galle, Elk Mound, Spring Brook and Rock Creek.
The Town of New Haven held a referendum during the April election in 2012 asking residents whether New Haven should be zoned or unzoned.
The New Haven Town Board had approved a moratorium on sand mining several months earlier.
Town residents voted 98 to 88 adopt county zoning.
The New Haven Town Board adopted county zoning at the April of 2012 board meeting.
Two New Haven town board supervisors approved county zoning in 2012. Town board member Marv Prestrud abstained from voting because he had signed a contract with a frac sand company.
When asked about the Town of New Haven, Colson, the county’s zoning administrator, said the town board had declined to adopt the new zoning code and is now currently unzoned again.
For the past several meetings, the PRD committee has been struggling with the issue of housing density and land division.
Committee members have settled on a housing density of 8:1 in areas zoned General Agriculture.
The housing density of one house for every eight acres allows a minimum lot size of one acre and is intended to preserve farmland and open space in Dunn County.
For example, if a landowner wanted to sell a 40-acre parcel for housing development, a total of five houses would be allowed on the parcel. If the landowner sold five one-acre lots for development, the other 35 acres would have to remain as open space or farmland.
Committee members also struggled with transfer of development rights and eventually agreed that a landowner should be able to transfer development rights between two contiguous parcels owned by the same person.
For example, if a farmer owned two 40-acre parcels next to each other, and one of the 40 acres was productive farmland but the other 40 acres was wooded, the farmer could transfer the development rights from the farmland to the wooded acreage, so that instead of five houses on each parcel, the wooded parcel could contain ten houses. The 40 acres in farmland would then have to remain as farmland or open space.
In order to amend the county’s zoning code to include housing density and transfer of development rights, each of the 16 zoned townships in Dunn County will have to approve the amendments.
The procedure for amending the zoning code includes filing a petition with the PRD committee and with the county board supervisors representing those particular townships.
The petition to amend the zoning code must also be filed with the county clerk and the county zoning administrator and must be sent to the town boards no less than ten days prior to a public hearing on the amendment.
The town boards can approve or reject the amendment prior to the public hearing or at the public hearing.
County residents also will have the opportunity to give their opinions about the proposed zoning amendment at the public hearing.
All together, the town boards would have 30 days to approve or reject the amendment.
The agenda for the Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee’s October 14 meeting included a review of the proposed amendments to the zoning code.
The Dunn County Board could take action on the proposed zoning amendments at a December meeting.
The county board generally does not meet in December, but Bob Walter, chair of the PRD committee, said it was a possible a special meeting would be scheduled in December on another matter.
If the county board does not take action on the zoning amendments this year, the amendments could be on the agenda for the January meeting, he said.