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DC PRD proposes changes to shoreland ordinance

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE  —  Dunn County’s shoreland protection ordinance needs some tweaking to bring it into compliance with state law.

The Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee discussed those changes March 24 and scheduled a public hearing on the ordinance for April 7.

The goal of the shoreland protection ordinance is to provide a buffer zone to reduce or eliminate the amount of run-off going into lakes and streams carrying phosphorus and other nutrients that feed toxic algae blooms.

Proposed changes to the ordinance include adding crops as a permitted use in a shoreland district; setting a minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet for a lot that is not served by a sewer system; only a plat or a certified survey map can consolidate two lots into one and not a property tax bill; trimming and cutting of vegetation in a buffer zone will be allowed only as routine maintenance, such as cutting down a dead tree; in a viewing corridor, the height of the vegetation cannot be less than 12 inches.

After the PRD committee’s public hearing, the proposed amendments to the shoreland protection ordinance would go to the county board for a first reading and a second reading. In addition to opportunities to comment at the public hearing, county residents also will be able to comment on the changes to the ordinance in the public comments portion of the Dunn County Board meetings.

In Dunn County’s ordinance, agricultural crops currently are not allowed within 1,000 feet of a lake, stream or a river.

The amendment would allow crops in the shoreland protection district but would still require that a 35-foot buffer be maintained.

The ordinance allows property owners a “viewing corridor”  and also allows a 15-foot wide access corridor to the water. Viewing corridors are 30 percent of the shoreland frontage or 200 feet, whichever is less.

The routine maintenance that would be allowed in the viewing corridor must be performed according to accepted forestry management practices and must not result in the loss of an existing layer of vegetation.

A buffer zone requires three layers: ground cover, underbrush and over story, noted Dan Prestebak, Dunn County conservationist.

The proposed changes to the ordinance also will allow the buffer zone to be reconstructed according to plans approved by the state Department of Natural Resources or Dunn County Land Conservation.

PRD committee members noted that sometimes buffer zones need to be torn apart in order to be put back together again.

PRD committee members also noted that nothing in the ordinance requires the access corridor to be mowed.

If landowners choose to mow the access corridor, however, the vegetation can be no less than 12 inches in height.

After some discussion as to whether the access and viewing corridor restrictions would impede farmers trying to harvest crops, two farmers on the PRD committee said they did not think it would be a problem.

Only a small percentage of the county’s farmers will be farming that close to a lake, river or stream, said Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax and PRD committee member.

No farmers can farm within 35 feet anyway because of the size of the equipment and the river, stream or lake bank or because of wetlands, said Gary Seipel, county board supervisor from Eau Galle and PRD committee member.