If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Please enter your email and we will send your username and password to you.
By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — Where would be the best place(s) to allow accessory/additional dwelling units — General Agriculture, Residential 1, Residential 2 or Residential 3?
The question is to decide where accessory/additional dwelling units would make the most sense, said Anne Wodarczyk, Dunn County zoning administrator, at the Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee meeting held on November 15.
In addition to whether the accessory/additional dwelling units should be permitted or primary uses in certain districts and conditional or special exception uses in other districts, the PR&D committee must consider the definition for an accessory/additional dwelling unit, the standards for ADUs, and the use of private on-site wastewater treatment systems (POWTS), she said.
In General Agriculture districts, Dunn County zoning currently allows additional dwellings for farm workers or family members of farm owners, Wodarczyk said.
R2 zoning districts allow duplexes, and R3 districts allow multi-family apartments, so ADUs would not add to the housing density in those zoning districts, she said.
R1 is intended for single family housing, so if ADUs were added to R1, then the zoning code would need some changes, such as the definition of R1, Wodarczyk said.
Many studies have indicated ADUs are appropriate in R1, R2 and R3, so what are the concerns for ADUs in R1? asked Diane Morehouse, county board supervisor from Menomonie and a member of the PR&D committee.
Morehouse also serves as chair of the Dunn County Health and Human Services Board.
The purpose statement, intent and density would have to be changed for R1, since R1 is where single family housing is located or where single-family housing is likely to be built, Wodarczyk said.
The PR&D committee could suggest changes to the zoning code so ADUs are permitted by right. If ADUs are a permitted or primary use, then all that would be needed is a zoning permit issued administratively, she said.
ADUs also could be included as conditional uses or special exceptions, and then there could be different standards for different districts, Wodarczyk said.
Septic systems could pose a problem for ADUs in R1 districts where the lots are very small, such as many of the lots on Tainter Lake, said Michelle Hrdlicka, an enforcement officer and planner with Dunn County zoning.
Many of the lake lots were created before there was a one-acre minimum lot size, and now plumbers are having difficulty being able to install replacement septic systems, she said.
For some lots, it is necessary to add a holding tank because there is not enough room to install a replacement septic system according to current standards, Hrdlicka said.
With such small lots, if someone wants to add on to the existing house or build another dwelling unit, and the lot is already stressed, there would not be room for an additional septic system, she said.
Other R1 districts might not have suitable soils for an additional septic system or might be limited by area or topography, Hrdlicka said.
There might be room for a septic or replacement septic on a particular lot, but if an ADU and septic system is added, it might become difficult if not impossible, she said.
Another consideration is keeping the septic system a certain distance from the water well, which would also make locating an accessory dwelling unit and another septic system a logistical nightmare on small lots, Hrdlicka said.
If ADUs are allowed in R1, the PR&D committee should think carefully about standards, said Mike Kneer, county board supervisor from Menomonie and a member of the PR&D committee.
Not all R1 lots are tiny lots platted in 1935, Morehouse commented, adding that she understands the difficulty with some lake lots but that there is “a larger picture.”
In R1, some lots are five acres or are flat and easy to place a septic, Hrdlicka said.
If there is not good soil or not enough room, then the landowner is stuck with a holding tank, she said.
Rates have increased recently, so if it costs $300 every couple of weeks or every month or couple of months to pump a holding tank, that can be a significant amount of money for home owners to pay, Hrdlicka said.
When the zoning code was updated seven or eight years ago, the PR&D committee spent significant time trying to make sure conflicting situations did not occur, said Gary Bjork, county board supervisor from Colfax and a member of the PR&D committee.
Bjork said he would be upset if he lived in an R1 district but now had a multi-family situation right next door.
Placing multi-family housing in the country where there are farming operations might not work well, he said.
The Dunn County housing study indicates the county is short on 3,000 housing units, so where do they live now? Bjork asked.
“I do not think there are 3,000 homeless in Menomonie,” he said.
The 3,000 housing units that are needed are not for the homeless. The additional housing units are for employers who are trying to hire more people but cannot hire more people because there is no place for additional employees to live, Morehouse said.
The additional housing units also will provide a way for older people to move somewhere that is easier to take care of, she said.
The housing study indicates that by 2040, Dunn County will need 3,200 additional housing units of all kinds, from executive-size homes to 1,200 square foot homes, Morehouse said.
Bjork said it made more sense to have more duplexes closer to the city of Menomonie where there would be city water and sewer available and where people would be closer to work and their children would be closer to school, and also where they would be closer to shopping and where mass transit would be more available.
In the rural areas, some children are riding the bus one hour each way, morning and evening, he noted.
When the Smart Growth comprehensive plans were developed, people said on the surveys they wanted clean water and to keep the rural character, and multi-family housing in the country does not preserve the rural character, Bjork said.
General Ag was meant to be a balance between farming and residential. In General Ag, landowners can have a duplex or two dwellings for a parent and child or a farm worker who earns 50 percent of his or her income working on a farm with a simple zoning permit, Wodarczyk said.
In those cases, there is no way to know if family members or farm workers will continue to live in the additional dwelling. If the landowner sells off the dwellings on five acres, Dunn County zoning will never know who lives there, and it would be impossible to enforce in the long term, she said.
General Ag was selected by many townships because they did not want Intensive Agriculture or Primary Agriculture, since those two zoning designations have more restrictions, Wodarczyk said.
The majority of people who have asked about ADUs are living in areas zoned General Ag or smaller lots that cannot be split anymore, she said.
In an R1 area, an eight-acre lot could be split into eight one-acre lots. In a GA area, eight acres cannot be split, Wodarczyk said.
So many people are living in the country in agricultural areas who are not involved in agriculture and do not understand farming, Bjork said.
In a recent conversation with Senator Rob Stafsholt (Wisconsin Senate District 10), Bjork said he had learned there was a township in Stafsholt’s district that wants to limit when and how long farmers could work in the field at night.
Bjork noted that Senator Stafsholt, a resident of St. Croix County, is a farmer.
What are the next steps? asked Tom Quinn, county board supervisor from Downing and chair of the PR&D committee.
The discussion will help develop the conversation on standards, Wodarczyk said.
Considerations will include conflicts with neighbors, how to allow ADUs, whether there is enough lot size available for additional septic capacity, the minimum acreage for a second dwelling, perhaps a determination of the size of a buildable area that can meet setbacks, she said.
ADUs would definitely need standards for septic systems, Morehouse said.
The county gathered citizen input on zoning, and the PR&D committee must look at the county’s comprehensive land use plan and engage those closest to the city and in townships about where ADUs would be appropriate, Morehouse said, adding that she is not suggesting the zoning code be changed “willy nilly” but that it must be part of a bigger picture.
ADUs are a small piece of the larger picture of housing and “where do we want to grow,” she said.
Maybe people have changed their minds since the updated zoning code was adopted on what they want, Morehouse said.
The Town of Menomonie, the Town of Red Cedar and the City of Menomonie have maps of growth that are more than a handshake agreement, and those would provide a starting point for what exists now, Kneer said.
A listening session might be helpful with the PR&D committee, planners, developers, town officials and community members, Wodarczyk said.
A structured discussion in a listening session format could be helpful to the PR&D committee, she said, adding that she has a toolkit for planning the listening session.
What part of General Ag could be rezoned? Bjork asked.
General Ag has a 1:8 ratio now, and if people want family to live closer, they could apply for a rezone, he said.
In the last two years, there have been more rezones. Some have been rezones to Commercial in General Ag, but some have been rezones to R1 or R2, Wodarczyk noted.
Quinn said he would support holding listening sessions.
Wodarczyk said she would be presenting the public participation plan for the comprehensive plan at the next PR&D meeting.
The ADU listening sessions would be similar in relation to the comprehensive plan, she said.
The listening sessions would not need to be separate because they are both involving public participation, Wodarczyk said.
Quinn asked about a timeline for the ADU process
The PR&D committee should decide if they want a listening session or if they would prefer to dive into standards and have questions answered first, Wodarczyk said.
Morehouse said she would support discussing standards but also wanted to move forward with a larger conversation.
The housing work group could also be part of the process, she said.
Both the housing work group and the PR&D committee need input from builders and community members, and both the housing work group and the consideration of ADUs could more forward together simultaneously, Morehouse said.
There could be an opportunity for the housing work group and zoning to hold listening sessions together, Wodarczyk said, adding that at the next PR&D meeting, committee members could discuss standards.
Discussing standards and considering scenarios for the options, to discuss the long-term implications and consequences, would be helpful for committee members at the next PR&D meeting, Quinn said.