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home : news : vilas county August 17, 2017

6/16/2017 7:29:00 AM
Shoreland zoning still a sticking point for conservation committee
Brian Jopek/Lakeland Times

Carolyn Ritter, pictured in this file photo, continued to champion efforts to ask for the return of shoreland zoning to the county level at the most recent Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Committee meeting last week.
Brian Jopek/Lakeland Times

Carolyn Ritter, pictured in this file photo, continued to champion efforts to ask for the return of shoreland zoning to the county level at the most recent Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Committee meeting last week.

Beckie Gaskill
Outdoors Writer

In past meetings, shoreland zoning has been hotly debated by the Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Committee. Some feel the issue is not one the committee should undertake, while others were adamant it should start with them and a recommendation be forwarded to the county board. Many feel shoreland zoning authority should be returned to the county level rather than subject to the "one size fits all" directive of the state's Act 55.

At one point the committee was ready to send a resolution to the county board with a favorable recommendation. At the next meeting, however, the course was reversed and, under suggestion by corporation counsel Jack Albert, committee chair Kim Simac removed the item from the agenda. Albert provided a written opinion regarding shoreland zoning, stating it was a zoning issue and should be in the zoning committee rather than the land and water conservation. Others on the committee disagreed, saying shoreland zoning had a great deal to do with lake health and water quality, both issues of which are firmly under the land and water conservation committee.

"Well, that's your person"

At last week's monthly meeting, the issue did find its way back onto the agenda at the urging of committee member Marv Anderson. He presented a resolution to the committee, with the understanding no action could or would be taken at the meeting.

The resolution, in its final form, would first be presented to corporation counsel for approval before being voted on by the committee and possibly sent with a recommendation to the full county board. There was some discussion regarding the wording of the resolution. In the end Anderson said he would talk with Dawn Schmidt regarding the terminology and then send it on to corporation counsel.

Board member Carolyn Ritter asked if the committee thought there would be value in having Lynn Markham from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point give a presentation to the board, or to the committee, regarding research conducted into the effects of shoreland activities and zoning on lake health and water quality.

"There's been a lot of passion about this and I just wonder, as the board starts to think about voting on this, if we don't want somebody not from our county, not to take away from you (county conservationist Carolyn Schell), but somebody who is independent, objective, from the University, who would come in and give us a very factual report and that might help the board as we decide how we want to vote on this," Ritter said. "I would like to suggest we do this, either at our June meeting or certainly by our July meeting. I guess the question is, do you feel that there is value in this?"

"Well, that's your person," Simac said.

"You know what, I don't look at it that way," Ritter responded.

"I mean it's your person from your point of view," Simac said. "I sent out some reports months ago from some Stevens Point scientists that said a lot of, contrary to what you're all saying, about what is destroying or adversely affecting the shoreline is not. So, we bring one person in who is going to have the point of view that supports where you're coming from, then it almost seems like you're getting political and you almost have to bring in another person with the other point of view."

"I don't know that she's going to support my view," Ritter said. "She is a scientist, she has worked with this, and she will have what is going to be a report based on, this is the documentation we've seen in the last years. And then she'd be available for any of us to ask questions of. I think it would help the board because a lot of us are dealing with what we think and what we believe. To bring someone in from the outside, then we can say give us some facts and some things that we can look at. Then we can ask her."

The discussion turned to a very favorable report regarding the condition of lakes in the area and how the lakes were being managed in the county.

"If we look back on the minutes, there was a report on how the report came back and we're doing really well," Simac said.

"If I'm interpreting it correctly, that's because we've had the other shoreline rules in place until the last year or so," Ritter said. "We aren't going to see the adverse effects in a year or two, we're going to see the adverse effects 10 or 15 years down the road."

"OK, because of ... because of what?" Simac asked. "Because of development?"

"Yes," Ritter said. "Because the more people you put on a lake, the more pressure you put on it - and see, this is what I think, my interpretation. Lynn may come in and she may say, 'Well, there are other mitigating factors.' I don't know. I have not seen her program."

"But when you talk to Dawn, and I'm on zoning, you don't see that happening," Simac said. "You don't see a run on properties at all. It's not going on."

"We're really talking more of a zoning issue here. We're back to the gray area again," Simac said later after a short discussion on how some lake properties were being parceled off some lakes. "And this is what Jack told us, our corporation counsel told us, is that this is a zoning issue. And here we are muddying the waters again."

"But why do we have zoning?" Ritter asked. "There's always a reason for why we have zoning where we do. I mean, zoning doesn't arbitrarily say let's zone this this way and that that way. They have reasons for why they zone things how they do."

"Which they really rework the whole thing," Simac said. "They've spent six months reworking everything and you mean your goal is to tell them to go back and rework everything that they did and go back to the old way after they've worked and we all voted unanimously on the new zoning, which I thought really did correct some things and protect ourselves."

The discussion then turned back to the fact, Ritter said, that supervisors voted to be in compliance with state law, not necessarily because they were in favor if it. She voted simply to be in compliance and felt she had no choice but to do so.

"It doesn't mean we like it and it doesn't mean it's right," she said. "If we voted no, what does that mean? It just means we would continue to not be in compliance with the state."

She then posed the question again whether it would help the board to have the scientist from UWSP come up and give the presentation.

Marv Anderson suggested inviting Lynn Markham and someone from what he called "the other side of the coin" and to let the committee come to an understanding of the facts, rather than to have that presentation at the board level. He wished to have something to present to the board and to be able to have a high-level discussion with the board regarding the committee's recommendation.

It was decided it would be best to have that presentation at the committee meeting before finalizing a resolution to send off to the board. If scheduling problems interfered with bringing two experts to the table with the committee, the idea of a special meeting was floated to the board. It was decided Ritter would contact Lynn Markham for dates which would work for her and would report her findings in hopes a meeting could be set up with experts who could advise the committee on the facts as are known at this time.

The next meeting of the Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Committee is scheduled for Thursday, June 13, but may be moved due to scheduling concerns, should experts be available to speak with the committee on another date.

Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at bjoki@lakelandtimes.com.

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