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The Lakeland Times | Minocqua, Wisc.

Jim Tait 02/01-02/28/17

home : letters : letters August 19, 2017

3/7/2017 7:27:00 AM
Oneida County Shoreland Zoning Ordinance

To the Editor:

The Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association is grateful for the efforts of the County Planning and Zoning Department in creating the shoreland zoning ordinance that is the subject of public hearings on Feb. 27, March 1 and March 2.

Planning and Zoning director Karl Jennrich, his staff and the County Planning and Zoning Committee have spent countless hours sorting through often incomplete and unclear guidance and multiple legal questions to develop what we believe is close to being the best shoreland zoning ordinance possible within the extremely difficult limits imposed by state government. The county team members are to be commended for their diligence and professionalism.

However, it remains the contention of the OCLRA Board of Directors that the Oneida County Shoreland Zoning Ordinance is inadequate to protect our lakes and streams from unwise development and the resulting degradation of water quality. More specifically, we believe it fails to achieve its stated purposes, which include:

• Furthering the maintenance of safe and healthful conditions and preventing and controlling water pollution

• Protecting spawning grounds, fish and aquatic life

• Preserving and restoring shoreland vegetation and natural scenic beauty

This is because state law has severely limited the power of Oneida and other county and local governments to require necessary protective measures beyond a set of minimum standards that have been imposed statewide.

Some brief background will help explain OCLRA's position. Wisconsin's shoreland zoning regulations, known as NR 115, were developed after years of discussion involving literally thousands of stakeholders with extremely diverse interests and perspectives. NR 115 contained minimum standards, with the understanding that county and local governments could enact more protective measures if needed to safeguard unique, sensitive water resources within their borders.

In 2015, at the end of the biennial state budget process, a provision was inserted into the budget bill - with no opportunity for public debate - taking away local control over shoreland zoning and putting the minimum, one-size-fits-all standards of NR 115 into effect statewide.

In Oneida County, whose water resources are among the richest in the state, minimum standards are not sufficient to protect the water quality that makes the area a great place to live and forms the backbone of a multi-million-dollar tourism economy. Specifically, these minimum standards severely restrict counties' ability to take common-sense measures such as:

• Requiring simple, cost-effective steps to limit runoff of harmful sediment and phosphorus into our lakes.

• Requiring minimum lot frontages of more than 100 feet on sensitive lakes where too-dense development threatens serious harm to water quality.

• Protecting the natural characteristics of shorelines that are part and parcel of the scenic beauty for which our lakes are treasured.

In line with the above, OCLRA will support efforts at the state level to restore county and local governments' authority to adopt reasonable and scientifically sound requirements to protect their own unique water resources. In the meantime, we encourage Oneida County to take affirmative steps that encourage owners of existing lake properties and people developing new lake lots to implement wise protective measures on their own.

Specifically, as one example, we would support the addition of staff to the planning and zoning department to provide property owner education on water quality protection as part of the process of making inspections for building and other permits in shoreland areas.

We, on behalf of our individual, lake association, lake district and local government members, would support the addition of such staff as a small yet productive investment in protecting priceless resources and long-established ways of life in our county. Our members have significant expertise in water-quality issues and would be willing to lend our assistance to public education initiatives.

This and other measures must be taken to protect Oneida County's water resources before irreversible damage is done to our environment and economy.

Bob Martini

On behalf of Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association Board of Directors

Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, March 10, 2017
Article comment by: Vern Moore

Regardless of the mountains of regulations heaped upon shoreland properties, there’s always someone(s), or organizations, around who want more control and more regulations. Enough is never enough.
Mr. Martini has now written in some detail what these organizations really want. They want to return to the good ol’ days of DNR control with oppressive regulations like regulation of natural scenic beauty. The Times had, and I guess still has, an appropriate name for these individuals - anaesthicists who at the extremity believe that everything in nature that is touched by human hands is spoiled forever.
Martini, on behalf of the OC Lakes and Rivers Association, advocates “simple, cost-effective steps to limit runoff of harmful sediment and phosphorus into our lakes.” It’s not sufficient that we already have setbacks, viewing corridors, buffers, and restrictions on impervious surfaces? And isn’t it already illegal to use phosphorus on shoreline lawns?
OCLRA would also demand more than 100 ft. of shoreland for properties. It’s already elitist to own and live on shoreline property and this requirement would make it even more elite. People like to live on water.
The kicker is restrictions on “natural scenic beauty”. We’ve been there before and the Wisconsin Supreme Court unwisely gave deference to the DNR in defining “natural scenic beauty.” Natural scenic beauty, of course, is in the eyes of the beholder. But the anesthetists would make this in the their eyes and ignore the eyes of the property owners.
The very idea that private properties on shorelands should be overseen by a group of environmental extremists is repugnant and hubristic. Shoreland property owners have plenty of incentive to take care of the value of their assets. Remember the tragedy-of-the-commons.
Mr. Martini is a retired DNR employee and undoubtedly remembers the good ol’ days when the DNR ran roughshod over property owners. This prevailed until we had some courageous lawmakers like Rep. Adam Jarchow, Sen. Tom Tiffany and their colleagues decided that elected officials, not bureaucrats, should decide the specifics of restrictions on shoreland zoning. There are more statutes en route resulting from The Homeowners Bill of Rights. Stay tuned!
I agree with Mr. Holcombe I live on a lake in Price County and we’re doing fine under the new arrangement.

Posted: Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Article comment by: Dan Butkus

Bob Martini and GD Holcombe make very good, if opposing points. The simple truth is that many people know how to, and effectively, manage their lake front for the benefit and health of the lake, and are stewards of the 100 yr old Wisconsin Public Trust Doctrine. But my experience is that there are far more who do not. Even with strong zoning ordinances, violations occurred all the time. Weakening the ordinances will only make it worse.

There is also the false argument that "one size fits all". What makes northern lakes attractive is the natural view that strong ordinances protect. I should know, our family is trying to correct the damage done to our shoreline by our father so many years ago when ordinances were lax. He wanted a better view of the lake. What he unwittingly did was make an eyesore for others on the lake to clearly see. With DNR's and the county L&WC department's help, we're changing that. Even as we naturalize, I see more destruction along our lake's shore that out-pace our own repair efforts.

Lastly, what gets overlooked is the fact that our State government is all about local control, unless that means allowing counties to be more restrictive than state minimums in order to adapt to local conditions. This is nothing more than a consolidation of power in the Capitol Building. Local conditions, and local sentiments ought to dictate whether we need more restrictive ordinances than the state minimum. But apparently, those in the Capitol Building disagree. We can't be trusted to manage our lakeshores, so the lowest common denominator rules.

Like Bob Martini, I do not fault Oneida County. Karl Jennrich's office is doing the best it can with the poor hand it's been dealt by our state representatives.

Posted: Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Article comment by: GD Holcombe

I live on a lake in Oneida County, and I couldn't be more pleased that new legislative developments at the state level have limited the ability of local county officials to determine how I and my neighbors use our property. It's as if we have no idea how to value and protect our lakes without the local rulemakers holding our hands--or putting them in handcuffs. It's time to move on from the Chicken Little hysterical fears that failure to return local bureaucrats to their customary and arbitrary rule-making fiefdoms is going to turn our lakes into cesspools by the day after tomorrow.

We're doing just fine under the new arrangement as far as many of us are concerned, thank you very much.

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