The Waupaca County Board voted against a Zoning Committee recommendation to maintain a 30-foot restriction on clear cutting along waterfront property.
Supervisors voted Tuesday, Feb. 18, to amend the county’s Shoreland Zoning Ordinance.
The most controversial of the amendments involved changes to the regulations that prohibit waterfront property owners from clear cutting trees and vegetation within 50 feet of the shoreline.
Enacted in 1997, the ordinance originally allowed property owners to clear no more than a 30-foot-wide view corridor between their homes and the shore.
The Zoning Committee established an ad hoc committee to review the ordinance and recommend changes that would make the county’s rules conform more closely to new regulations from the state Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR, since the election of Gov. Scott Walker, has made its shoreline regulations less restrictive. It now allows waterfront view corridors of up to 200 feet.
The ad hoc committee recommended changing the county’s ordinance to allow property owners to create view corridors of 30 percent of their shoreline or 100 feet, whichever is less.
After a Jan. 9 public hearing, however, the Zoning Committee voted to replace the proposed 100-foot view corridor with a limit of 30 percent or 30 feet, whichever is less.
At Tuesday’s County Board meeting, Supervisor Bob Flease, who lives on the Wolf River in Mukwa, made a motion to return the amendment to the ad hoc committee’s original wording.
Flease argued that the more restrictive rule represented the wishes of a small number of Chain O’ Lakes residents and not the entire county.
Flease said only 9 percent of the county’s waterfront property was located on the Chain, but they “have 90 percent of the say-so” regarding waterfront rules.
“This is ridiculous,” Flease said.
He said the Wolf River has more than 20 miles of shoreline running from New London to Fremont. His constituents oppose the smaller view corridors.
Supervisor Bob Ellis, who lives on the Chain in Dayton, argued that the ad hoc committee’s discussion regarding the rule changes were controlled by five or six people, most of whom do not live on the Chain.
Ellis said tourism is important to Waupaca County’s economy and keeping the shorelines green is important to tourism.
“By making the view corridors wider, we’ve allowed anybody with more than 330 feet of shoreline to chop down 100 feet of trees,” Ellis said.
Ellis noted that Waupaca County has had a 30-foot limit for 15 years. Its Shoreland Zoning Ordinance has been a model to other counties and to the state.
Quoting the Wisconsin naturalist Aldo Leopold, Ellis said, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
Supervisor Don Morgan of Weyauwega said he considered the 30-foot restriction on waterfront view corridors as “more like confiscation without compensation.”
Flease’s motion to change the ordinance amendment to the ad hoc committee’s original proposal passed by an 18-5 vote.