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Dunn County joins others in asking state to repeal shoreland zoning changes included in budget bill

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE  —  The Dunn County Board has joined a number of other counties in asking the state Legislature to repeal changes to shoreland zoning included in the 2015-2017 budget bill.

The county board approved the resolution at the October 22 meeting.

Ron Verdon, chair of the Tainter Menomin Lake Improvement Association, spoke about the changes to shoreland zoning during the public comments portion of the meeting.

The changes to shoreland zoning removed local control and were included in the budget bill (Act 55) with no adequate public discussion, Verdon said.

The process was a breach of the democratic process, he said.

Act 55 removed counties from making any decisions about shoreland zoning, Verdon said.

All counties are different, all bodies of water in those counties are different, and the counties should retain the right to regulate shoreland zoning in the way that is the most effective for that particular county, he said.

The main problem with Act 55 “is that it took away local control (for shoreland zoning) and put it in the hands of the state Legislature,” said Bob Walter, county board supervisor from Menomonie and chair of the Planning, Resources and Development committee.

State representatives in Polk County and Oneida County sponsored the change in shoreland zoning, but Polk County and Oneida County also are asking the state to repeal those changes to the statute, he said.

For the past 45 years, the courts have always found in favor of shoreland zoning, Walter said.

Maintaining control over shoreland zoning is important to Dunn County because of Tainter Lake and Lake Menomin and the problems both lakes experience with toxic algae blooms during the warm summer months.

Shoreland zoning includes provisions for maintaining vegetation to help reduce stormwater run-off.

Reducing stormwater run-off will help reduce the amount of phosphorus going into the water. The soil in this part of the state tends to be high in phosphorus, and phosphorus is one of the nutrients implicated in fueling the algae blooms.

The changes to shoreland zoning included in the budget bill resulted in significant changes in the standards for regulating existing non-conforming structures in shoreland areas.

The state budget amendment changes long-standing regulations that currently limit non-conforming structures to maintenance and repair and instead would allow non-conforming structures to be completely replaced within the same footprint and would allow vertical extensions up to 35 feet in height.

Dunn County has many existing non-conforming structures in shoreland zoning areas, such as older cabins around Tainter Lake, that would no longer be subject to oversight if the changes are not repealed.

About 20 counties are asking for the repeal of the changes to shoreland zoning, Walter said.

The Dunn County Board unanimously approved the resolution asking the state Legislature to repeal the changes made to shoreland zoning in the 2015-2017 budget bill.