Over a year ago, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced it was seeking to revise NR115, the state administrative code that sets minimum standards for county shoreland zoning ordinances across Wisconsin.
After working through the initial stages of the process, the rule changes were unveiled at the end of June, and public hearings are being held around the state through August.
The rule changes, which Wisconsin Lakes generally oppose, ease rules relating to the percentage of impervious surfaces (surfaces which stormwater can drain through, filtering out contaminants) in a lot within 300 feet of a lake or river.
They even include a new and somewhat ambiguous category of "highly developed shorelines", which we fear could impact much more than the urbanized areas for which they were designed.
In addition, the revisions exempt some lots that currently must meet the impervious standard, and allow for a one-time side-to-side expansion of nonconforming structures within a zone 35-75 feet from the waters edge.
The existing rules came about as the result of a long series of difficult but fruitful negotiations between conservation organizations (including Wisconsin Lakes), business interests, developers, and the state.
Finalized in 2009 and effective since 2010, the actual deadline for counties to have ordinances in place has continually been pushed back (currently it's 2014).
These rule revisions go against many of the compromises agreed to as part of those negotiations.
Except for in a few counties, the rules haven't even been tested. Why should Wisconsin roll back shoreland zoning protection when the current rules haven't been given a chance?
The current rules are certainly not perfect - no compromise ever works out all the kinks.
But we believe most of the specific changes being proposed in this package of changes simply take Wisconsin too far backwards, and our lakes will suffer for it.
Instead of making these changes, the current rules should be implemented, tested, and then we can talk about what works and doesn't.
For more information on the rules including links to the proposed language, check the NR115 Revision webpage at www.wisconsinlakes.org.
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