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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee has denied a request for a rezone from General Agriculture to General Commercial that would allow Classic Protective Coatings to store commercial equipment on ag land.
Following a public hearing on January 11, the PR&D committee denied the request for a rezone from Ray Witke for 3.2 acres north of Menomonie on state Highway 25 in the Town of Sherman.
Witke lives at N7670 State Highway 25 and operates his business from that location, which is currently zoned General Commercial, said Ann Wodarczyk, Dunn County zoning administrator.
The parcel Witke is asking to rezone from General Agriculture to General Commercial to store trailers and tanks for his business is directly north of the location where he operates Classic Protective Coatings. The property currently has a small barn and a water retention pond, she said.
Dunn County’s zoning ordinance does not allow commercial equipment to be stored on agricultural land. Adjacent land, land in the neighborhood and land extending beyond one-quarter of a mile of the proposed rezone, are zoned General Agriculture, General Commercial, and Residential 1 and 2, Wodarczyk said.
The parcel to the east is General Agriculture and is mostly open grassland with some wooded area, and the land further to east, in the Town of Tainter, is zoned R1 and has single family residences and lake front cabins, she said.
The development trend in and around this area has been toward residential uses, and the recommendation is to deny the rezone request because the current nature of the area is mostly agricultural and is increasingly residential, Wodarczyk said.
The Sherman Town Board discussed and approved the request for a rezone on November 17, 2021.
Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax and a member of the PR&D committee, said he was neutral on the idea of a rezone.
There are other commercial enterprises in the area that include a greenhouse and storage buildings, and the Town of Sherman did support the rezone, he said.
“I can see it both ways,” Bjork said.
Tom Quinn, county board supervisor from Downing and chair of the PR&D committee, noted that a contractor storage provision would be more appropriate than a rezone.
A contractor storage yard would have to be a special exception so that conditions could be attached, but that would require changing the county’s zoning ordinance, Wodarczyk said.
Rezoning the property to commercial would open it up to a list of different uses, Wodarczyk said.
A rezone would make the parcel “open forever” to whatever is allowed under general commercial zoning, said Mike Kneer, county board supervisor from Menomonie and a member of the PR&D committee.
If a rezone is granted, the use of the property could go well beyond the current applicant because a rezone goes with the property, Quinn said.
Wodarczyk said she was recommending denial of the request because in addition to allowing commercial storage, the commercial rezone would allow many other uses, such as a supermarket, an appliance store, fireworks sales, a car wash, a church, a motel or a taxidermy shop, to name a few.
The question is — how to do a contractor storage provision, Quinn said.
An ordinance would have to be written, and it would take a few months at a minimum for the ordinance to be changed and approved, Wodarczyk said, adding that she would not anticipate the contractor storage ordinance to be in place before late summer.
In the meantime, Wodarczyk said she is working with Witke on the commercial storage issue to try to get the business in compliance with the current zoning.
She also noted she has started working on writing a contractor storage ordinance.
The PR&D committee could deny the rezone and then consider a contractor storage ordinance, could postpone action on the rezone while the contractor storage ordinance is being explored, or the PR&D committee could approve the rezone, Quinn said.
The intent of the contractor storage ordinance would be to allow businesses to go to the Dunn County Zoning Board of Adjustment for a special exception, Wodarczyk said.
Contractor storage is not listed in the ordinance now, so there is no procedure to allow it, she said.
An unidentified speaker said he was afraid of getting into a “vicious circle” with the Board of Adjustment being hesitant to approve a special exception for contractor storage because it would be setting a precedent.
The Board of Adjustment would be granting a permit for a special exception and would not be granting a precedent, Wodarczyk said.
The situation for Classic Protective Coatings is a “self-created problem” because it is a business that started at a house and then expanded beyond the available land, she said.
This is not a problem created by the zoning ordinance or the Dunn County Board, Wodarczyk said.
Jim Anderson, county board supervisor from Menomonie and a member of the PR&D committee, said he, too, has mixed feelings in that he does not want to create a future problem with a rezone but also would like to help the business.
Quinn said he believed the PR&D committee could find a solution without creating more problems.
The request for the rezone is complicated. If the rezone is granted, then it results in a long-term land use change that could have a negative impact on the community, Quinn said.
The situation is frustrating, he said, adding that he believed the best course of action would be to deny the rezone with the intention of asking county staff to begin developing a contractor storage ordinance for the PR&D committee to consider.
Zoning staff have the intention of working with Witke so he can be able to continue to store items on the property temporarily until the issue can be resolved, Quinn said.
The PR&D committee could also defer action while the ordinance is being developed, he said.
Diane Morehouse, county board supervisor from Menomonie and a member of the PR&D committee, said she could understand the desire “to make it work” and that she is not opposed to a contractor storage ordinance.
“But we do not have that option now, and a rezone decision is in perpetuity,” she said, adding that the rezone would be incompatible with the surrounding land use, which is trending toward residential.
“I would vote to deny the rezone for those reasons,” Morehouse said.
On the other hand, if the rezone is granted, then there is only one parcel to be concerned about, but a contractor storage ordinance would cover the entire county and could be a concern each time a request goes to the Board of Adjustment, Kneer said.
The Dunn County Planning Resources & Development Committee denied the rezone on a vote of three in favor of denying the request and two not in favor.
Voting in favor of denial were Morehouse, Quinn and Kneer.
Voting against denying the rezone were Anderson and Bjork.
The Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee met again on January 25.