New county rules control riverside development
After accepting three amendments from the floor last week, the St. Croix County Board adopted a revised county ordinance regulating development along the St. Croix River.
The new law incorporates changes in Wisconsin Administrative Code NR 118, which sets standards for property use along the Lower St. Croix River. In St. Croix County that includes land in the towns of Troy, Hudson, St. Joseph and Somerset.
After the three amendments were approved, the regulations were adopted by a unanimous vote of the County Board, followed by an outbreak of applause from supervisors pleased to have completed their work on the often-controversial regulations.
These are the three changes made during the June 21 board meeting:
All three changes were among those proposed by Hudson Supervisor Mark Erickson.
While he said the draft ordinance "generally is great," Erickson said he and others object to conditions in the county code that are more restrictive than state regulations.
If the County Board really wants to protect the St. Croix, it should send letters to Minnesota officials "requesting that they get off their butts and pass something that comes close to protecting the St. Croix River," said Erickson, who lives in Hudson along the river.
"Various landowner and citizen groups have been trying to add consistency and reason to these regulations for years," said Erickson. "NR 118 was recently revised to reflect the efforts of hundreds of concerned citizens and is the result of nearly nine years of meetings."
As seen from the river, the Wisconsin shoreline looks much as it did years ago, said Erickson.
"Minnesota has been far less restrictive by comparison, even allowing privately owned marinas which have been dredged into the shoreline," he said. "Clear cutting of bluffs, zero setback from bluff lines and greater densities are a few examples of situations found across the river which would never fly in our state."
Erickson said the county rules should comply with NR 118, but it's not fair to make the county code more restrictive than state regulations.
"Perhaps it is an idea that is before its time," said Planning and Zoning Committee Chairwoman Jan Zoerb of the lighting restrictions proposed by her committee. She said people who live in rural areas often object to bright lights, but lighting isn't addressed in NR 118. Zoerb didn't oppose the amendment removing the section on lighting.
Erickson maintained, and others agreed, that the smaller diameter trees would have a better chance of surviving, especially on the steep slopes along the river.
In a lot of cases, minor changes to sites can redirect water runoff, said Planning and Zoning Director Dave Fodroczi, responding to the suggestion to amend the proposal regarding storm water runoff plans. He said the focus is small rain storms, which can do a lot of damage.
Supervisor Ralph Swenson wondered if that same runoff standard is applied in other areas of the county.
Zoning Specialist Jenny Shillcox said that as permits and variances are approved, stronger runoff standards are applied in sensitive areas.
Erickson's motion to eliminate the storm water plan reference to existing development was adopted by the board.
As she opened the discussion early in the meeting, Shillcox listed revisions made to the proposed ordinance in the last few weeks. Some of those changes are: