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After delay, county accepts riverway rule changes

After a five-month delay, the Pierce County Board adopted amendments to its St. Croix Riverway zoning code last week.

The action revises county law to comply with changes the state made to Chapter NR 118 of Wisconsin's Administrative Code. The state changes, which must be incorporated into county law, were finalized in the summer of 2004.

Pierce County's amendments came to the county board in February. Action was postponed when former County Board Member Carl Braunreiter argued the ordinance's limitations on repairs of structures on the bluffs amount to a "taking" of the property.

The revisions are an improvement because they eliminate the 50 percent rule, said Supervisor Jeff Holst. That rule prevented homeowners from making improvements valued at more than half the value of the building in the 1970s.

"I think it's time we moved on. We've been dragging our feet on it," said Holst, a member of the land management committee.

According to a Department of Natural Resources bulletin, the revised rules increase "flexibility for property owners to repair, maintain and, in some cases, expand homes that existed within setbacks prior to enactment of the original rules in 1973."

NR 118 was first adopted in 1976. The state's planning process to revise the rules took seven years.

In February, Braunreiter, who served as an alternate on the land use advisory committee offering input as state agencies reviewed NR 118, warned property owners will fight back if they aren't allowed to maintain their buildings.

He said the county shouldn't bear that cost. He urged the board to add to its code language that would give automatic variances to allow repairs "if the state does not post bond for the full value of the land and potential legal costs within 10 days of the permit application."

In Pierce County, the laws affect property primarily in the Town of Clifton. Braunreiter said the rules apply to only a couple of dozen houses, mostly old cabins.

According to a land management department staff report, its attorney advised the language proposed by Braunreiter would be contrary to state law and would tie the hands of the board of adjustment.

The attorney advised it isn't a legal "taking" to require a nonconforming building be removed at the end of its useful life.

The report said common law on property rights does not require a nonconforming structure shall be allowed to remain in its nonconforming location forever, nor the owner be allowed to extend its life by rebuilding its support beams or foundation.

Trenton rezoning

In other zoning business, the board voted to rezone a half-acre parcel in the Town of Trenton from Rural Residential-20 to Commercial. The request was made by Doug Dodge, as agent for Ryan and Cory Dodge.

The site, along CTH VV, holds a commercial building the Dodges want to expand so they can move their Hager City Glass business from its present location on the corner of Hwys. 35 and 63.

The property was zoned Commercial until the County Comprehensive Land Use Plan was adopted in 1998. There are several other commercial establishments along this stretch of CTH VV.

Holst said the rezoning corrects "a mapping goof-up" made by the Town of Trenton.