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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Sends Shoreland Rules Back To Committee

After long debate and several parliamentary moves at their monthly meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18, Marinette County Board by 25 to four vote sent amendments to the controversial Shoreland/ Wetland Zoning Ordinance back to committee with instructions to return with changes to only the two sections that currently are in conflict with Act 170 of state law, which was passed earlier this year.

The proposed amendments to those sections, Zoning Administrator John LeFebvre told the board, will in fact ease some existing restrictions on sub-standard lots and non-conforming structures in the shoreland/wetland zone.

Efforts to put off all amendments until either November of 2013 or February of 2014, when the new requirements of NR115 are slated to go into effect, were defeated after declarations by LeFebvre that he would in the meantime enforce the existing ordinance provisions, which are more stringent than a new state law passed earlier this year allows. If that happened, LeFebvre said he would then suggest that unhappy property owners should call the County Supervisor who represents their district.

There were also warnings from Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison that votes to not change the ordinance would be votes to not obey state law.

The state had passed NR115 with numerous highly controversial provisions prior to the election of Gov. Scott Walker and a change of political climate in Madison. Because there are proposals to change several provisions of that DNR rule, the legislature postponed effective date until February of 2014. Predictions are that several other major changes will be made before the effective date arrives.

The most controversial restrictions are to the percentage of “impervious surface” allowed on shoreland properties and restrictions on clearing vegetation from the shoreline or requirements to restore brushy buffer zones along the shoreline above the normal high water mark. With certain exceptions, the amount of lawn or beach on properties located on lakes, rivers and streams is restricted by the ordinance and DNR rules to basically a 30 foot viewing corridor per property.

In other action, the board approved Pete Villas to head the Parks and Forestry Department, effective on Tuesday, Jan.1. He replaces Forestry and Parks Administrator John Scott, whose retirement becomes effective on that date. Villas has been employed with Marinette County since 2000, serving most recently as Assistant Forestry Administrator. The appointment was made by County Administrator Ellen Sorensen and supported by the board’s Forestry, Parks and Outdoor Recreation Committee.

After brief discussion the board approved an agreement by which the City of Peshtigo will purchase 3.1 acres of county-owned property adjacent to the County Highway Shop in the City for $6,200, subject to several provisions in the offer to purchase. The property lies west of Ogden Street and east of the drainage ditch. The agreement requires the lot to be developed and a new business started there within 24 months of the sale. If that does not happen, unless the county grants a written extension, the county has the right to reclaim ownership for the same $6,200 purchase price. Buyers are to survey the property and pay all costs associated with the property transfer, including drafting the deed, and paying recording fees.

Supervisor Russ Bauer said there is gossip going around that the Forestry and Parks office might move out to the highway department facility. Villas doubted that would happen any time in the near future, and Highway Committee Chair Russ Bousley, who also serves on the Forestry, Parks, Lands and Outdoor Recreation Committee, said the role of the Highway Department keeps shrinking, and the county has not ever used the land in question.

There were some objections during discussion but finally no opposing votes to a Personnel Committee recommendation to accept a new collective bargaining agreement with Wisconsin Professional Police Association granting Marinette County’s sworn law enforcement personnel (mainly Sheriff’s Department Deputies) two percent raises on each January 1 and July 1 of 2013, 2014 and 2015. The contract is only for sworn officers who are exempted from the new state collective bargaining rules for public employees.

Robert Holley said he was not opposed to raises, but objected strongly to percentage raises, stating they contribute to ever widening spreads between incomes at the top and bottom of the pay scale. Clancey Whiting agreed, adding at 4 percent raises each year hourly rates would double in 14 years.

Mattison said the county has always had a good working relationship with this group, and noted it is a negotiated contract, an agreement the county cannot unilaterally change. Sorensen said the officers have agreed to pay a higher percentage of their retirement and insurance costs and they will now have the same health insurance as other county employees.

Also approved without dissent were Sorensen’s appointments of Ron Meyers and Sarah Gospodarek as new members of the Elderly Services Board for three year terms expiring Dec. 31, 2015; and reappointment of Supervisors Al Sauld and Alice Baumgarten to the Housing Authority Board for five year terms; Supervisor Connie Seefeldt to the Nicolet Federated Library Board for a three year term; Bryan Peth to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee for a two year term; Brandon Jeske to the Health and Human Services Board for a three year term; Greg Goetzman and Fred Meintz to the Industrial Development Corporation Board for two year terms, and Jerome “Duffy” Nast to the Veterans Service Commission for a three year term.

On recommendation of the Law Enforcement Committee the board approved purchase of five 2013 Ford Police Utility Interceptor vehicles from The Motor Company of Marinette for the low bid price of $25,830 each, or a total of $129,150. Closest competing price, $26,538 per vehicle, a total of $132,690, was offered by Witt Ford of Crivitz, very, very closely followed by Ewald,s, whose price per vehicle was $4 higher than the Witt bid.

On recommendation of the Law Enforcement committee the board approved a $41,040 maintenance agreement with BayCom for 2013, along with renewal of the contract with Inmate Calling Solutions LLC for telephone service for inmates of the county jail with a commission paid to the county.

On recommendation of the Finance Committee transfer of no more than $57,108 from contingency for emergency replacement of servers and operating system for the county dispatch center was approved, as was the bid from Midland Papers of Appleton for 880 cartons of copy paper for $20,785.60.

On recommendation of the Buildings and Property Committee the board accepted the low bid of Johnson Controls for HVAC maintenance in all county buildings. Price is $38,580 per year, with an option to extend the agreement with increases of not more than three percent per year.

A few job reassignments were approved as recommended by the Personnel Committee, and on recommendation of the Economic Development Committee the agreement with Bay Workforce Development Consortium was approved, subject to approval of Corporation Counsel.

UW-Marinette Dean Paula Langteau gave her annual report on the college.

LeFebvre reported the new plat books are now available. He thanked his office staff for all their work, particularly Aleta DiRienzo, who designed the cover and did the art work for the book, which since 2005 has been produced by the Land Information staff rather than Rockford Publishing.

LeFebvre said his office also produces larger-size maps of towns, showing property ownership, and they provide two copies of the plat book and maps to the towns free of charge. “Our office is open and available to help any community that needs data,” LeFebvre offered. He said cities to not have individual property ownership in the plat book, but his office can assemble that data if asked.

The plat books can be purchased in the courthouse for $27, with an additional $5 charge if they must be mailed, and they are sold to retailers for $20 each in volume, and generally are sold by them for $27.50.

At the start of the meeting, Sgt. Matt Evancheck, accompanied by Sheriff Jerry Sauve, presented the county with two plaques and a flag that had flown over his base at Bagrum, Afghanistan, while he was on active duty with the U.S. military forces there. He recently returned to his law enforcement job at the Sheriff’s Department after his second tour of duty to a Mid-East war zone in less than half a dozen years. He reminded the board that Bagrum is the site of the Koran burning that led to attacks and bombings on the American military there, and eventually Pakistan shut down their borders, which limited supplies that could reach the American troops. They were getting one meal a day in addition to pre-packaged rations, Evancheck said, adding he and the 110 men who served with him greatly appreciated the care packages that came from people back home in Marinette County, including the Steven Drees Foundation and several other organizations that adopted him and his troops, sending cookies, cheese, crackers and more. He said he was probably the most popular man on base because he was able to share the treats from home.

“Things are not getting any easier over there,” Evancheck told the board, “and I hope and pray that I never have to leave again.”

Evancheck thanked Sheriff Sauve, the entire Sheriff’s Department, County Board, his family and the entire community for their support while he was deployed.

Vilas Schroeder accepted the flag on behalf of the county and led the Pledge of Allegiance. He then asked everyone to remember the families in Newtown, Conn., where 27 people, including 20 kindergarten students, were shot and killed Friday, Dec. 14.

Next came time for comments from the public, and Peshtigo Town Chair Herman Pottratz and local resident and property owner Chuck Boyle spoke in opposition to NR115 and expressed hope that the state will make some significant changes before the enforcement date in February of 2014. Both urged the board to hold off on adopting the proposed changes to the Shoreland/Wetland Zoning Ordinance that Marinette County adopted several years ago in response to NR115 requirements at that time.

The DNR has for several years been trying to get some even more stringent restrictions added to NR115, but so far has been stymied by public opposition. The new rules drawn up by the DNR were tacitly accepted by the Democratic legislature under Gov. James Doyle, but after Republicans took control of the Legislature last year and Gov. Scott Walker took office there has been a push to get at least some of the NR115 provisions modified, and enforcement was put off for two years to allow time for that to happen.

At LeFebvre’s urging, the Land Information Committee has been working for months on changes to the Marinette County Shoreland/Wetland Zoning Ordinance. Some of those changes, LeFebvre said, were just wording or location changes designed to clean up the ordinance, while others were written to bring the county ordinance into compliance with the NR115 requirements. After strong public objections, references to the new impermeable surface regulations were removed from the changes County Board was being asked to adopt.

Pottratz told the board the NR115 rule changes, as well as the related county ordinance changes will affect nearly every property owner in the Town of Peshtigo. He said the DNR has put the NR115 changes on hold until 2014 to get some things corrected, and urged the county not to get involved with the new rules until they have to. “Those rules will cost a lot of money to enforce, and I don’t think anyone will be happy,” he declared.

He noted only a dozen people - six supervisors and six members of the public attended the first public hearing early this year in Crivitz. There were seven people on hand for the hearing in Dunbar, in addition to Supervisor Russ Bousley. who also is Town Chair there.

By contrast, over 110 persons attended the hearing held in Peshtigo Town Hall this fall, “and no one there was in favor of passing this ordinance!”

Pottratz said he didn’t know of anyone on the Land Information Committee who owns property on the river or the Bay, and he doubted anyone who does would be in favor of it, particularly the rules that ultimately will cut off views of the water. “This is a very intrusive thing,” Pottratz declared. He said people pay high property taxes to enjoy views of the water, and this ordinance will destroy that. “I think the DNR put NR115 on hold to make some changes, and you should do the same,” Pottratz urged.

He particularly objected to the impervious surface requirements, which were removed from the county ordinance for now in response to public opposition, and to requirements for “remediation” of shoreline growth that he described as a requirement to “plant junk along the shoreline that must stay there as a provision in the deed.” Eventually the trees, grass, shrubs and bushes people are being required to plant will block the view and the property will lose its value.

“Hold off on adopting this to give people a chance to find out what the rules are all about and get them corrected,” Pottratz urged.

Boyle showed videos of low water levels in Green Bay, with resulting sand bars nearly a mile long in some places, where he predicted phragmites will again grow up unless people are allowed to go back to the old way of disking to preserve beaches and keep plants from taking over. Chemical treatment did kill the invasive weeds for now, but Boyle predicted they will be back.

LeFebvre told him the DNR regulates use of areas between the water and the ordinary high water mark, and the county ordinance only applies to properties beginning at the high water mark.

Boyle said with the viewing corridor restrictions of 30 feet to 60 feet, depending on the amount of frontage involved, “it will be just a matter of time until vegetation starts growing on the beaches.”

Boyle said a group of Marinette/Peshtigo area residents met with state and federal law makers in August in regard to the rules, and Rep. John Nygren told him the state Legislature had delayed NR115 enforcement until February of 2014 to the governor, legislators and DNR staff under its new management to make some changes. He felt some of the rules may be okay for people who live on small lakes or in lake districts, “but not for the general public living on lakes, rivers and streams.”

When the proposed ordinance revisions came up for action later in the meeting, Land Information Committee Chair Ted Sauve moved for adoption, with a second from Whiting, who is a member of the committee.

Russ Bauer promptly moved to postpone action until at least February of 2014, due to the fact that the legislature has postponed enforcement at least until then. That motion was seconded quickly by Supervisor Don Pazynski. Districts of both supervisors include parts of the Town of Peshtigo.

Ted Sauve argued the position of the committee is to take action at this time and send it on to the Wisconsin legislature “for any changes they may want to make.”

Bauer called for the question. He said there were ample opportunities at the three public hearings and several committee meetings to hear information on the ordinance changes.

Whiting said they should at least hear what LeFebvre had to say before voting on the move to end discussion. He said he had heard some misinformation earlier that morning. Holley said they should hear the information, “so we can make an informed decision.”

Bauer reminded everyone he had called for the question.

Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison ruled that a call for the question does not require a vote if anyone objects.

LeFebvre said even if the board decided to postpone action, they need to have their ordinance adopted, approved by the state and in place before the deadline in February of 2014, and said they should at least agree to act in November or December of 2013.

He added that NR115 was indeed adopted by the state three years ago, but counties were given two years at that time to incorporate the changes into their ordinance and then later, after Gov. Walker was elected, they were given two additional years.

However, in April of this year the Legislature adopted Act 170, which requires easing of regulations on sub-standard lots and allows remodeling and expansion of non conforming houses as long as the additions are no closer to the normal high water mark than the original structure. The law specifies that county ordinances cannot be any more stringent than the state law, but in Marinette County that is not the case. “Your ordinance, as it exists does not meet these requirements,” he said.

He said the state is trying to make things easier for property owners to use their properties, but because of the county ordinance he cannot issue some of the permits they would be entitled to. He spoke of a Lake Noquebay property owner who may be spared a $750 fee to apply for a variance if the ordinance amendments are approved. He said if they vote down the ordinance revisions he will enforce it as written and refer questions to supervisors.

Mattison had done some research while the discussion continued, and said the short version of Call for the Question moves in Robert’s Rules of Order is that “it is improper, inconsiderate and rude to call for the question...but if you do wish to quash debate, it does not require a second but does require a two thirds vote to take effect.”

That said, there was no call for a vote on Bauer’s motion except by Bauer, and discussion continued without a vote on his attempted motion..

LeFebvre admitted there is a task force in place in Madison which is currently reviewing the provisions of NR115.

Supervisor Al Mans wondered then why Marinette County should not also delay action.

LeFebvre said the provisions getting the most attention at the state level are on impervious surfaces, and those were taken out of the proposed revisions because of public opposition at the hearings.

As discussion continued, LeFebvre urged the board to at least adopt the revisions that are now out of compliance with state law, so he knows how to proceed. “I could live with that,” he declared.

“We heard the people and their opposition to the rules at the public hearings and made the change they wanted,” Sauve said.

Supervisor Connie Seefeldt said the ordinance also has a detrimental effect on farmers, “and they are definitely not in favor of it.” She reluctantly went along finally with the move to send it back to committee.

Pazynski disagreed. He pointed out there is almost as much opposition to the viewing corridor and shoreline planting requirements as to the impervious surface rules, and he has been told the legislature is looking to correct that as well. He said everyone was missing issues and urged tabling the whole thing until 2014.

Eventually the board sent the ordinance back to committee with implied instructions to change just the two provisions that ease the rules and bring compliance with the relaxed state law.

“I’m sure the committee understands what you want,” Sauve replied when asked if the board needed to spell out in the motion exactly what they wanted the committee to do with the ordinance.

There were some predictions it could be back as early as the January board meeting, and others that it will take longer.


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