By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Board’s Planning, Resources and Development Committee has continued a public hearing on proposed amendments to the county’s shoreland-wetland zoning ordinance.
The PR&D committee opened the public hearing at the August 8 meeting, and while no members of the public were there to comment on the proposed amendments, the state Department of Natural Resources has not yet signed off on the proposed changes.
[emember_protected] The Dunn County Board does not meet in August, so continuing the public hearing until the next PR&D meeting August 22 would give county staff time to confirm with the DNR to make sure the proposed changes are acceptable, said Tom Quinn, county board supervisor from Downing and chair of the PR&D committee.
Dunn County’s shoreland-wetland zoning ordinance was approved by the county board in 2012.
The county-wide ordinance applies to all zoned and unzoned townships.
Since then, state law regarding shoreland-wetland zoning has changed a number of times, requiring Dunn County to amend the county’s ordinance.
A county shoreland-wetland ordinance cannot be more restrictive than state law.
Establishing buffer strips along lakes, rivers and streams is intended to help prevent stormwater run-off from carrying nutrients, such as phosphorus, which contribute to toxic algae blooms in Tainter Lake and Lake Menomin.
Michelle Siegl, Dunn County zoning officer and planner, said she had spoken with a DNR official who had confirmed, over the telephone, the proposed changes to Dunn County’s ordinance would be acceptable.
But while the DNR official told Siegl over the telephone there were “no issues,” Dunn County has not yet received written confirmation in an e-mail or a letter, Siegl said.
Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax and a member of the PR&D committee, said several senators, including Senator Tom Tiffany, wanted to make additional changes to the state’s shoreland law.
“They have already been changing it quite a bit,” Siegl said.
Several years ago, when Dunn County officials were faced with making the first round of amendments to the ordinance in order to align it with new state law, they expressed dismay the state would not allow Dunn County to put more protections in place to help improve water quality in Tainter Lake and Lake Menomin.
Both lakes have been listed as “impaired waters” by the United States Environmental Protection Agency because of the algae blooms. The toxic algae can cause skin rashes in pets and humans and also can kill small pets who drink the water.
Some of the proposed changes to the ordinance are corrections of typographical errors while other changes are more substantive.
Some of the substantive changes to the ordinance are included in the section on “mitigation,” which relates to buffer zones and structures.
Before Dunn County issues a permit requiring mitigation, the landowner must submit a complete permit application for new impervious surfaces, such as an asphalt driveway or a concrete pad, greater than 15 percent of the lot area, or for the lateral expansion of a non-conforming principal structure or for the relocation of a non-conforming principal structure.
Areas regulated by the shoreland-wetland ordinance include within 1,000 feet of the ordinary high water mark of navigable lakes, ponds or flowages, or within 300 feet of the ordinary high water mark of navigable rivers or streams, or to the landward side of a floodplain, whichever distance is greater.
The ordinance does not apply to lands adjacent to farm drainage ditches.
Under Section 14.13 when mitigation is required, the landowner must submit a complete permit application, and the optional mitigation measures must accumulate a minimum of four points.
Quinn and Bjork both said they did not recall a point system included in previous versions of the ordinance.
The point system was included in state law after the Dunn County Board had approved the original shoreland-wetland ordinance, said Dan Prestebak, county conservationist.
Having a range of choices for landowners will make it more likely they will comply, Siegl said.
Changing how the points are assigned is up to the county, she noted.
Maintaining a buffer zone is always better, but some properties, for whatever reason, cannot maintain a 35-foot buffer zone, Siegl said.
With a 10-foot or 25-foot buffer zone, “at least there is something there,” she said.
The original 75-foot buffer zone included in the ordinance was too much because it was more restrictive than state law, Prestebak noted.
Here are the ways landowners can achieve the minimum of four points:
• Develop, restore or maintain a shoreland vegetative buffer zone within 10 feet of the ordinary high water mark (OHWM). (1 point). (The changes to this provision are to reduce the points from 2 to 1 and to change the buffer zone from 25 feet to 10 feet.)
• Develop, restore or maintain a shoreline vegetative buffer zone within 25 feet of the OHWM (3 points). (The change to this provision is to reduce the buffer zone from 35 feet to 25 feet).
• Develop, restore or maintain a shoreland vegetative buffer zone within 35 feet of OHWM (4 points). (The amendment to this provision is to reduce the buffer zone from 75 feet to 35 feet.)
• Restore native vegetation along both side yards to a minimum depth of 10 feet; 1 point for every 10 feet of side yard restoration. (No changes to the provision.)
• Remove non-conforming accessory buildings from the shore setback area. Up to 500 square feet equals 1 point; and greater than 500 square feet equals 2 points. (No changes to this provision.)
• Relocate a non-conforming structure to a conforming location. Up to 500 square feet equals 1 point; and greater than 500 square feet equals 2 points. (No changes to this provision.)
• Use exterior building materials or treatments that are inconspicuous and blend with the natural setting of the site; 1 point. (No changes to this provision.)
• Reduce the width of the viewing corridor; 1 point for every 10 feet of reduction. (No changes to this provision.) The ordinance stipulates the viewing corridor may be at least 35 feet wide for every 100 feet of shoreline frontage.
• Install run-off infiltration measures to accommodate a run-off volume of water based on a five-year storm event at a five-minute duration (4 points) and may include a rain garden; infiltration structures; French drains; retention or detention basins; diverting overland flows away from or parallel to the shore; installing pervious pavers that allow water to drain through. (No changes to this provision.)
• Remove other shoreland structures, such as fire rings, benches, beaches, gazebos, decks and so forth. (2 points). (No changes to this provision.)
• Implement other practices that are agreed upon with the zoning department, such as removal of excessive dock length or mooring. Points will be determined by the zoning administrator.
The implementation schedule and measures to establish and maintain the mitigation plan must be recorded with the Dunn County Register of Deeds.
Dunn County’s shoreland-wetland zoning ordinance does not require approval to install or maintain outdoor lighting in shorelands and does not require any inspections or upgrades of a structure before the sale or other transfer of the structure.
Permitted uses that do not require a permit as long as they do not require any filling, flooding draining, dredging, ditching, tiling or excavating include hiking, fishing, trapping, hunting, swimming and boating; harvesting of wild crops, such as marsh hay, berries and tree fruits; pasturing livestock; cultivating agricultural crops; planting, thinning or harvesting trees; constructing duck blinds.
Permitted uses that do not require a zoning permit but may involve limited filling, flooding, dredging, draining or excavating include temporary water level stabilization to ease abnormally dry or wet conditions that may have an adverse impact on planted trees; cultivating cranberries; maintenance and repair of existing agricultural drainage systems; building fences for pasturing livestock; building piers, docks or walkways on pilings; repairing, replacing or reconstructing existing town and county highways, dams and bridges.
The ordinance also includes uses permitted only with a zoning permit, such as roads needed for maintaining or harvesting tree plantations or agricultural roads; non-residential buildings that are less than 500 square feet in floor area; establishing public or private parks; constructing or maintaining electric, gas, telephone, water and sewer transmission and distribution facilities by public utilities and cooperatives.
Any other use not listed in the ordinance is prohibited unless the wetland has been rezoned.
The public hearing on the proposed changes to the shoreland-wetland zoning ordinance will be continued at the next PR&D meeting at 8:30 a.m. August 22. [/emember_protected]