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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — After about a year and a half of work, the Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee has approved a final draft of the land division ordinance and has forwarded it to the Dunn County Board for consideration.
The PR&D committee held a public hearing on the draft land division, condominium and surveying regulations ordinance on November 16.
Tom Carlson, county surveyor, reported that the public hearing notice had been published in the newspaper and that he had also e-mailed notices, along with the draft of the ordinance, to 34 surveyors who work in Dunn County, 23 realtors and title companies that work in Dunn County and to all town clerks and town chairs.
One public comment was received by e-mail the morning of the public hearing from Tony Christopherson, chair of the Town of Elk Mound, stating that he appreciated the work of the PR&D committee and that the proposed ordinance would ensure all landowners in Dunn County would have the same rights and opportunities.
An earlier draft of the ordinance established a housing density in unzoned townships of one lot per eight acres (1:8).
The Town of Elk Mound is unzoned.
A density of 1 to 8 is already established in Dunn County’s zoning ordinance for zoned townships.
No one showed up for an an earlier public hearing on the proposed land division ordinance held by the PR&D committee on April 13 in spite of publishing the notice of the public hearing in the newspaper, e-mailing the notice and a copy of the draft ordinance to 35 surveyors who work in Dunn County, to all the town clerks in Dunn County (22 townships), and to 41 realtors and title companies that work in Dunn County — not to mention the Colfax Messenger and the Glenwood City Tribune Press Reporter also publishing several articles pertaining to the proposed revisions to the land division ordinance.
The PR&D committee approved the draft ordinance after the public hearing in April and forwarded it to the Dunn County Board for consideration at the board’s May meeting.
At a meeting of the unzoned townships and their county board representatives in the Town of Elk Mound April 29, representatives for the unzoned townships said regulating residential density with an 8 to 1 ratio in the unzoned townships takes away local control of land development.
At the May meeting, Tom Quinn, county board supervisor from Downing and chair of the PR&D committee, asked the Dunn County Board to send the proposed ordinance back to the committee to see if solutions could be found for the concerns about the ordinance.
According to the initially proposed ordinance, a landowner in an unzoned township in Dunn County who owns 40 acres that he or she wished to subdivide, for example, could divide the parcel into five lots (40 divided by 8 is 5). The minimum lot size is one acre, so the parcel could be divided into four one-acre lots and one 36-acre lot.
Under the proposed ordinance, the 36-acre lot could not be subdivided again.
The Dunn County Board unanimously approved sending the proposed land division ordinance back to the PR&D committee for further consideration.
The PR&D committee discussed three options for controlling density in unzoned townships at the June 22 meeting, including using county or state plat maps, creating a variance process, or removing residential density in unzoned townships and reducing the number of land divisions allowed by certified survey map (CSM).
The PR&D committee eventually agreed to implement the third option: remove residential density in unzoned townships and reduce the number of land divisions allowed by certified survey map (CSM).
Townships that have not adopted county zoning in Dunn County include the Towns of New Haven, Sand Creek, Elk Mound, Spring Brook, Eau Galle and Rock Creek.
Dunn County’s existing land division ordinance was adopted in March of 2006, so the ordinance needs to be updated, Carlson said to the PR&D committee at the November 16 meeting.
The PR&D committee has been discussing updates since March of 2020, he noted.
Much of the ordinance has remained the same, although the proposed ordinance has a number of entirely new sections, Carlson said.
One change is the “purpose” section has been expanded to provide greater protection for environmentally sensitive areas, he said.
The definition section also has been expanded to include new terms, such “contiguous buildable area,” “contiguous tract,” “dry land access,” “environmentally sensitive area,” “high water elevation,” “lowest building opening,” and “wetlands” — to name a few, Carlson said.
The proposed ordinance better defines the terms of land division and adds more clarity about parcel combinations and reconfigurations, he said.
In addition, the ordinance contains better clarity for the definition of “high value agricultural land,” and contains better technical standards for Certified Survey Maps (CSMs) and for both preliminary and final plats, as well as including the requirement for soil borings on all major land divisions so that a minimum of one soil boring will be required on each newly-created lot, Carlson said.
Some new sections were added altogether with surveying requirements and general provisions, he said.
Drainage and roads
The section on surface drainage has been greatly expanded, along with the erosion control section, which will now provide more protection for environmentally sensitive areas, Carlson said.
The streets and roads section has been greatly expanded as well to include better standards for cul-de-sacs and private roads, along with the requirement for maintenance agreements for private roads, he said.
The section of the ordinance pertaining to lots also has been expanded, Carlson said.
The section now contains the lot area, length and width ratios, minimum frontage, non-conforming structures and contiguous buildable area, he said.
The variance, appeals and enforcement section has been greatly expanded to provide better clarity, Carlson said.
Another major change to the ordinance is that the fee schedule has been removed and will be placed in the appendix of the new ordinance, Carlson said.
Since fees must be updated from time to time, putting the fee schedule in the appendix will make revisions easier and more simple and efficient, he said.
Other than the e-mail message from Christopherson the morning of the public hearing, no other comments were received about the proposed ordinance.
No one contacted the environmental services office about joining the Zoom meeting to make public comments on the proposed ordinance.
When Quinn asked the PR&D committee members if they had additional comments on the ordinance, none of the committee members had additional comments.
Quinn said he was not surprised committee members had no further comments since the draft ordinance had been so thoroughly discussed over such a long period of time.
The public hearing before the PR&D committee on the draft land division, condominium and surveying regulations ordinance was the public’s only opportunity to make comments.
In October of 2019, the Dunn County Board approved an ordinance that will not allow public comments at county board meetings pertaining to a matter on which a public hearing has already been held.
If people speak during the public comments portion of the Dunn County Board meeting, or at a committee meeting, about something that has already been the topic of a public hearing, they would be presenting additional testimony outside of the public hearing.
At the October 2019 meeting, several county board supervisors noted that not allowing public comment on topics that have already been the subject of a public hearing is an issue of fairness as well as a legal issue.
The Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee unanimously approved the draft land division, condominium and surveying regulations ordinance and forwarded it to the Dunn County Board for consideration.
The Dunn County Board’s next regular meeting is January 18.