Village of Colfax approves smaller minimum lot sizes for residential, larger setback for accessory buildings

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — The Colfax Village Board has approved smaller minimum lot sizes of 12,000 square feet  for residential zones in the village and a larger accessory building setback of six feet from the lot line.

The Colfax Plan Commission held a public hearing on the proposed changes to the village’s zoning code October 27.

Following the public hearing, the Colfax Plan Commission recommended that the village board approve the zoning code changes.

The previous minimum lot size in the village’s ordinance was 18,000 square feet, or almost a half an acre.

Usually minimum lot sizes are 11,000 to 12,000 square feet, said Patrick Beilfuss of Cedar Corporation.

Requiring a minimum lot size of 18,000 square feet uses more land than is necessary for a residential lot and is encouraging sprawl, he said.

People can still buy an 18,000 square foot lot, but they will not be required to have that as a minimum lot size, Beilfuss said.

Amending the zoning code to reflect a small minimum lot size corresponds with the proposed residential concept for the Jim and Mary Schindler property along Dunn Street, he noted.

As for the setbacks, the previous setback of three feet from the lot line for an accessory building — a garage or a storage shed — puts those buildings very close to the line, Beilfuss said.

Many communities are increasing the setbacks for accessory buildings to give more room to the lot line to help mitigate disputes among neighbors, he said.

Existing buildings are grandfathered in for the purposes of the zoning ordinance, Beilfuss said.

Gary Stene, plan commission member, noted that there are many places in town where the buildings are closer than current setbacks and that many buildings are located within the village’s right-of-way.

The Colfax Messenger building and other houses along Railroad Avenue are an example of buildings being in the right-of-way, he said.

Businesses and houses that are in the village’s right-of-way are considered to be located on a “non-conforming” lot, which only becomes an issue if modifications are planned to the buildings, Beilfuss said.

No members of the public attended the public hearing to address the plan commission on either the minimum lot size or the increased setbacks.

The Colfax Plan Commission unanimously approved recommending that the village board adopt the zoning changes.

Village president Scott Gunnufson serves as chair of the plan commission. Other plan commission members include Beverly Schauer, village trustee; Dave Hovre; Nancy Hainstock; Mike Buchner and Jason Johnson.

Buchner and Johnson were absent from the October 27 meeting.

During the Colfax Village Board meeting that immediately followed the plan commission meeting, the village board approved amending the zoning code to set a minimum residential lot size of 12,000 square feet and a minimum setback for accessory buildings of six feet.

CSM

The Colfax Plan Commission reviewed the certified survey map for phase one and two of the proposed residential development on the Jim and Mary Schindler property along Dunn Street.

Lots 1 through 4 on the CSM represent phase one and two of the proposed development, Beilfuss said.

The village can create up to four lots by a CSM. Creating more lots would require going through the major subdivision process, he said.

The village could offer to purchase the first three lots this year and purchase the fourth lot next year along with the right-of-way for Dunn Street, Beilfuss said.

The CSM shows that the Schindler property lot line is actually in the middle of Dunn Street and that half of the street is on the Schindler property.

The village has money in the general fund balance to purchase the first of the lots without adding to the property tax levy, Gunnufson said.

According to the CSM, the first four lots cover a total of 5.93 acres.

The Colfax Village Board and the Schindler family have agreed upon a price of $15,000 per acre.

Amend the CSM

Mary Schindler, along with her daughter and son-in-law, Deb and Gary Klukas, and her son, James Schindler Jr., attended the village board meeting to discuss the CSM.

A number of years ago, a larger lot on the Schindler property had been created at the corner with Wisconsin Central Railroad and Dunn Street.

Because the lot is existing, an easement would have to be included from Dunn Street across from Third Avenue to the remainder of the existing lot, Beilfuss said, pointing out that the existing lot cannot be left land-locked without access to it.

After the village purchases the property, a street right-of-way will be needed, and the CSM shows the street right-of-way directly across from Fourth Avenue.

Klukas wondered if the easement for the remainder of the lot by the railroad tracks could come from the Fourth Avenue location rather than one indicated on the CSM further to the north across from Third Avenue.

The Colfax Village Board approved a motion postponing action on accepting the CSM until the next village board meeting on November 10 to allow time to amend the CSM to reflect the alternate easement.

Comprehensive plan

At the Colfax Plan Commission meeting, committee members reviewed the utilities and community facilities chapter of the village’s Smart Growth comprehensive plan and recommended that the village board move forward with a public hearing on the updated land use plan.

Updating the Smart Growth plan requires a public hearing and that the notice be published in the Colfax Messenger.

The public hearing can be held after the 30th day following the notice in the newspaper. The 30-day period gives village residents time to review the proposed updated comprehensive plan, Beilfuss explained.

If the notice is published in the November 5 Colfax Messenger, the public hearing could be held at any time after December 5.

The Colfax Village Board approved a motion to move forward with publishing the notice about the public hearing for the comprehensive plan update.

Other business

In other business, the Colfax Village Board:

• Approved basic radar training for Michael Madrid, Colfax police officer, for November 3 through November 5 in Rice Lake.

• Approved a bartender operator’s license for Mary Roehl.

• Postponed taking any action on the real estate purchase agreement with Mary Schindler until the November 10 village board meeting.

• Learned from Colfax Police Chief Bill Anderson that progress is being made on the clean-up of the Eugene Ziebell property.