Lorraine Koeper sent this letter to the Waupaca County Post, explaining why residents are opposed to putting a parking lot in their neighborhood.
Ryan Brown, the Waupaca Planning and Zoning Director, has taken an extreme position that calls into question zoning practices across the entire county.
He is allowing Jeff Maiman, the owner of The Wheelhouse Bar & Restaurant, to put in a lighted parking lot for 40 cars for his commercial business on a property that is zoned residential. In a Sept. 18 letter to Mr. Maiman, Ryan Brown says that because the Waupaca Zoning Ordinance does not “clearly and unambiguously prohibit” the project, it can go forward without any authorization from the County.
This interpretation turns the zoning paradigm upside down. First of all it is not applicable to this case because the bottom line is that a commercial parking lot is not a permitted use for a residential property in Waupaca County and the Zoning Director does not have the power to change that simply because he says so. There must be fair and transparent processes.
And, secondly, Ryan Brown’s interpretation would say that anything that is not specifically listed in the ordinance must be permitted. This interpretation is the exact opposite of how the Zoning Ordinance works. Instead of listing the uses that are permitted on a residential property as the Ordinance does, this interpretation would require the Ordinance to list every conceivable use that is to be prohibited on residential property.
If this interpretation stands, it would lead to absurd results that would have ramifications across Waupaca County in all sorts of wild scenarios.
We have consulted legal and zoning experts across the state, including numerous attorneys and faculty members at UW Steven’s Point Center for Land Use Education, and they have confirmed the view that allowing a residential property to be used for a parking lot for a commercial business located down the road would be an extreme and very odd position for a zoning department to take.
In addition, the Comprehensive Plan for Waupaca County and the Town of Farmington envisions this area to be residential, so expanding commercial activity goes against the Planning that has been done for this property.
Despite all of this information having been presented to Ryan Brown on several occasions, we have been stonewalled in making any progress on the matter.
The property in question that is the subject of our appeal was a beautiful wooded lot on a dead-end street, completely surrounded by other residential properties, adjacent to a wetlands, home to abundant wildlife, and across from Lime Kiln Lake and Round Lake on the Chain, as well as Ottman Lake. The County and the Town of Farmington have received numerous phone calls and emails in opposition to this project but that has neither changed the County’s actions nor caused them to explain how they arrived at this absurd interpretation. They have also failed to produce records in their possession that were the subject of our public records requests.
We are being forced to incur tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to try to have the County enforce the protections that Zoning Ordinances are intended to provide. This is an unfair result and, if Ryan Brown’s interpretation stands, could happen to residents all over the county who think they are currently protected by living on a quiet, dead-end residential street.
With Ryan Brown’s letter of Sept. 18 in hand, I am sad to say that Jeff Maiman cleared the trees on this residential property to move forward with his parking lot, even though we asked him to wait for the legal process to play out.
The fact that The Wheelhouse could benefit from more parking is irrelevant. The property in question is zoned residential; a commercial parking lot is not permitted on residential property. In addition, there is a commercial property for sale located much closer to The Wheelhouse that could solve his need.