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Change in zoning law offers loophole

Getting approval for a package of "technical amendments" to St. Croix County zoning ordinances hasn't been a quick and painless process.

Three months ago, the St. Croix County Board tabled the whole package of amendments. Last week the Planning and Zoning Committee and Planning and Zoning Department administrators brought in a set of five revisions and got County Board approval for four.

The fifth -- a provision that limits the height of a "principal structure" to 35 feet rather than 2½ stories -- was pulled out of the package and sent back to the department and committee for language revision.

"It sort of looks like a person could come through the back door on you and go for the pole shed first," said Supervisor Linda Luckey. She suggested a property owner could get permission for a 35-high accessory building if that was the first building placed on the land.

A landowner could get a permit for a 35-foot pole building and then apply for a 35-foot-high house, agreed County Board Chairman Buck Malick. He said the wording in the proposed amendment could result in two 35-foot buildings on a lot.

"Surely, there must be a way to avoid that," said Malick.

"It's not an academic concern," said Malick. He said the Board of Review recently considered a request from a person who wants to build an accessory building on a lot. The person said he isn't planning to build a house there, but that doesn't mean he won't want to do that later, said Malick.

Planning and Zoning Committee Chairman Wallace Habhegger and Planning and Zoning Director Dave Fodroczi recommended immediate adoption of the five proposed amendments.

In a memo to the board, they said the changes would "improve the usefulness of the existing zoning ordinance and are very important to the current construction season."

They said the rest of the package of amendments would be reviewed further with other amendments suggested by the corporation counsel and brought to a public hearing and the County Board later.

These are the changes approved June 20:

  • The height limitation for accessory buildings was increased from 15 to 20 feet.
  • Language was added to the shoreland section of the law to say that any construction or other land disturbance activity, other than public improvements, that affects a slope of 25% or more is prohibited. Any land disturbance activity for public improvements affecting slopes of 30% or greater are prohibited.
  • The designation was changed to allow a town representative, not just a town resident, to serve as deputy zoning administrator.
  • References to fees that are outdated were removed.

    In other zoning business, the board voted to rezone:

  • 80 acres owned by Mathy Construction in the town of Stanton. Forty acres was rezoned from Agricultural to Agricultural II to allow non-metallic (gravel and sand) mining, and 40 acres were rezoned to Agricultural to correct a previous rezoning and prevent non-metallic mining on this parcel.
  • 45 acres owned by Basel Farms in the town of St. Joseph. The land is being rezoned from Agricultural to Agricultural-Residential because it is being sold for residential development.
  • 20 acres owned by Kerry Licht in the town of Pleasant Valley. The land is being rezoned from Agricultural to Ag-Residential and will be platted into four 5-acre residential lots.

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