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Revised shoreland rules

nothing new to Vilas

While it took more years than anyone ever imagined it would to complete the statewide shoreland zoning standards contained in NR 115 of the administrative code, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has struck a compromise that could be a win-win for property owners and the environment.


The Natural Resources Board gave final approval last week to revisions that will ease the impervious surface limit to 30% as long as impacts are mitigated, and a higher amount if property owners treat runoff or can prove it won’t impact the lake or river.


Addressing the concerns of county zoning administrators, the citizen-run board also revised the nonconforming standards to allow 200 square feet of horizontal expansion within the 75-foot setback instead of just vertical expansion. The rule also eliminates the requirement that property owners must remove all other nonconforming accessory structures in order to get a remodeling permit.


The process started with stakeholder meetings more than 10 years ago. Though approved in 2010 with a two-year compliance period, Gov. Walker delayed implementation while seeking revisions. Counties now have until May 2016 to comply.


There were many forces pushing the upgrade, not the least of which was that the 45-year-old standards were outdated and failing to provide adequate environmental protection at a time when development pressures on lakes had never been higher. The old standards were vague and unenforceable, leading to county challenges and enormous inequity among counties. They lacked flexibility for property owners and treated nonconforming structures as if they should be torn down.


The good news is that reckless counties such as Oneida, which gutted its shoreland zoning ordinance midway through the process, must now take a serious look at amending its ordinance to meet the new standards. The bad news is that Oneida and others will get another 29 months to comply, and that’s only if Gov. Walker doesn’t intervene again seeking additional rule revisions.


As it turns out, Vilas County’s zoning department, zoning committee and county board showed incredible vision when they revised the county’s shorelands ordinance to include performance standards and mitigation principles in 1999.


Much of what you see in NR 115 today reflects the core principles of what Vilas County’s ordinance has accomplished for more than a decade. The county set reasonable impervious surface standards at 30% — higher for commercial properties and those in highly developed areas. It required mitigation of potential damage from remodeling, new construction and other development.


We’d like to commend Vilas officials for being conservative with what are undisputably the most concentrated, most unspoiled inland water resources in Wisconsin. They’ve kept common sense protections in place that limit development within 75 feet of the water and encourage stewardship of these waterways.


Vilas County’s zoning ordinance will need few changes to comply with the new standards, for they’ve been doing much of it right since before the DNR?started this process.

Behind the editorial ‘we’


Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Gary Ridderbusch and Assistant Editor Anthony Drew.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013 12:58 PM

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