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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee has decided on density management by ratio as a proposed revision to the draft land division ordinance, which would apply to both zoned and unzoned townships.
Parcel density is currently being managed in zoned townships, and two options are available if PR&D committee members want to manage parcel density in unzoned townships, said Tom Carlson, county surveyor, at the PR&D committee’s February 9 meeting.
The land division ordinance is Chapter 16 of the county’s ordinances and is separate from Chapter 13, the county’s comprehensive zoning ordinance.
The first option for managing density would be by the number of splits allowed per 40 acres over time, Carlson said.
The second option for managing density would be by ratio as applied to an entire contiguous tract of land, no matter how many acres in the tract, he said.
The first option would allow four lots to be created per 40 acres within a five-year period by Certified Survey Map (CSM).
In a 40-acre parcel, four 10-acre lots could be created, and then in year six, the 10-acre lots could be split to create eight five-acre lots and so forth, Carlson said.
If the tract of land was a good site, and the divisions were well-managed, many lots could be created over time, he said.
The second option involves a density ratio of one lot per eight acres.
A maximum of four lots smaller than 20 acres can be created by CSM within a contiguous tract in a five-year period. The density is calculated by dividing the area of the contiguous tract of land by eight, Carlson said.
Under the second option, a 40-acre parcel could have five splits for the life of the parcel (40 acres divided by a density of 8 equals 5 splits). An 80-acre tract could have a maximum of 10 splits. A 240-acre parcel could have a maximum of 30 splits, he said.
For contiguous tracts of land existing before the draft ordinance is adopted that are greater than eight acres but smaller than 16 acres, the tract may be divided to create one additional lot, Carlson said.
In both options, additional lots could be created at one time by a county plat map or a state plat map, he said.
The PR&D committee must select one option so that a public hearing can be scheduled on the draft land division ordinance, Carlson said.
For the current draft ordinance, the PR&D committee has already agreed on a minimum lot size of one acre, Carlson said.
In a 40-acre parcel split into five parcels, with a density of eight-to-one, created by a CSM, the parcels do not have to be eight acres. A parcel could be one acre, he said.
Diane Morehouse, county board supervisor from Menomonie and a member of the PR&D committee, asked if Carlson had a preference on the options.
Carlson said he would stop short of making a recommendation to the committee but that there are advantages and disadvantages to the options.
Density is easy to manage and is a simple concept that works well in zoned townships. In unzoned townships, using density limits people with large pieces of land on the number of parcels they can create, he said.
The question comes down to which option fits the county’s comprehensive land use plan the best, Carlson said.
Using a density ratio of eight-to-one is consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan and preserves agricultural land and environmentally sensitive areas, he said.
On the other hand, using a density ratio, if someone owns 80 acres that has already been divided the maximum amount of times into 10 lots, and the owner wants to sell the remaining undeveloped land, but the buyer is not aware that it cannot be subdivided, then any further development of the land would not available to the buyer, Carlson said.
If the PR&D committee supports the county’s comprehensive land use plan, then the eight-to-one density ratio is the best option, “in my personal opinion,” he said.
When the comprehensive plan was being developed, the residents in the townships said they wanted to preserve the rural characteristics of their townships, said Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax and a member of the PR&D committee.
In the county’s previous zoning ordinance, there was Residential 1, 2 and 3 zoning, said Bob Colson, Dunn County zoning administrator.
R1 was one acre, while R2 was two acres and R3 was five acres, he said.
People were using R1 as a residential district, but the lots were still located in an agricultural district, and the PR&D committee wanted to preserve agricultural land, Colson said.
The third option available to the PR&D committee for the draft land division ordinance was density management of eight-to-one only in zoned townships.
In that option, a landowner could create as many residential lots as they want in an agricultural district, and in that instance, it becomes a matter of balancing the benefit to an individual landowner as compared to the benefit of the county as a whole, Colson said.
In the option of using density management only in zoned townships, the draft ordinance references to creating five lots in five years rather than the four lots in five years if density management also applies to unzoned townships.
Tom Quinn, county board supervisor from Downing and chair of the PR&D committee, asked about the difference between the two options.
By state law, four lots can be created with a Certified Survey Map, but the land division ordinance would not be bound by state law, so five lots could be created in the density management option applied to both zoned and unzoned townships, Carlson said.
Five lots lines up better with county zoning, Colson said.
Four lots versus five lots is confusing, and creating five lots in five years is more consistent, Carlson said.
Five lots would give more options to landowners and may make the land division ordinance more palatable to the townships, Quinn said.
PR&D committee members agreed that they preferred the option of using density management in both zoned and unzoned townships and allowing the creation of five lots in five years, rather than four lots in five years.
If the land division ordinance allows five lots to be created in five years, and someone wants to create those lots sooner, the lots can be created by a county or state plat map rather than by a Certified Survey Map, Colson said.
Platting does not allow more lots, and the density would be the same, Carlson said.
A plat does not by-pass the density, and with a plat, a landowner can do all of the density at once rather than in five year increments, he said.
Bjork asked about restrictions on plat maps.
The county can require more on a plat map, such as an engineered road plan. Private roads are not allowed in areas where there are more than four lots, Carlson said.
A private road can be used in a minor subdivision with a maximum of four lots. If a plat map is created with more than four lots, then it must be a public road built to town road standards that is turned over to the township to be maintained by the township, he said.
In addition to an engineered road, soil borings and an erosion control plan can be required, Carlson said.
The county can have more requirements for a plat map than a CSM, and in addition, a plat map comes to the PR&D committee for approval while a CSM does not come to the committee, he said.
Stormwater control also is needed for county and state plat maps, Carlson said.
Carlson said he would work with Nick Lange, Dunn County corporation counsel, on the wording for the land division ordinance pertaining to creating five lots in five years with a density of eight-to-one in both zoned and unzoned townships so the PR&D committee could discuss the issue again before a public hearing is scheduled on the draft ordinance.
The Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee meets next on February 23.