Town board rejects proposal
By Kris Leonhardt
MCMILLAN — At a public informational meeting and planning commission meeting held Feb. 6, the five-member board of the town of McMillan Planning Commission voted to convert to town zoning as the current county zoning code is set to expire.
The Marathon County Board of Supervisors approved new zoning code on Feb. 16, 2016. With the adoption of the new code, towns using the old code were given one year to implement the new code, establish a local zoning code, or be left with no zoning at all.
Of the previous county-zoned towns in Marathon County, 16 had already adopted the new code. The towns of Halsey, Day, and McMillan remained under the old code.
As the Feb. 16, 2017, deadline approached, town leaders had to act to avoid or minimize the lapse in zoning code by instituting a town zoning plan or adopting the new county code.
If no zoning code was instituted, the town would have no legal standing to prohibit land use or create standards, and landowners would not be eligible for Farmland Preservation tax credits.
Remaining with county zoning would provide benefits to the town of McMillan, said Dean Johnson of the Marathon County Conservation, Planning, and Zoning Department.
“Here the zoning is administered by the county in partnership with the town,” said Johnson. “The county has a Board of Adjustment and Land Conservation and Zoning committee that is set up. The county has professional staff to issue permits, answers questions, respond to complaints, and administer the code. In our office, we have 20-plus staff.
“The county has a corporation counsel for all of our zoning legal matters. Our corporation counsel is our legal staff, our attorney, so any enforcement goes through them. Any legal advice or questions on the ordinance, we run it through them. The town does not pay any of this except what you already pay in taxes.
“The county has a Farmland Preservation district that was developed and certified, … and many of the people in McMillan are using that zoning class and that opportunity to collect some tax credits.”
McMillan Planning Commission Chair John Bujalski pointed out advantages to town zoning.
“Local control by the residents who live in the town, … zoning permits are locally controlled,” said Bujalski. “The town board acts on all of the rezones, land divisions, zoning issues, subdivision requests. The board has the final say.
“Permits and rezones are acting on in a timely manner. We don’t have to go through a process of two weeks, four weeks, whatever. If there is an issue that comes up that we feel needs to be addressed immediately, it can be held within a three-day posting, and then the plan commission would be able to meet and send a recommendation through to the board.
“All fees go to the township, and the board would set the fee schedule. … Zoning can be constructed to the town’s character.”
Following the public hearing in which nine local citizens as well as planning commission members addressed the zoning issue, the board voted on a motion brought forward by Commissioner Mike Stockheimer to move to town zoning.
The vote was split 2-2, and Bujalski cast the deciding vote to recommend town zoning.
“If the town of McMillan is considering town zoning, there will be a period of time when the town will have no zoning due to legal requirements,” said Johnson. “The ordinance development, legal review, Class II publication requirements, public hearing meeting posting requirements, and Wisconsin statute requirements (are needed) for county board action.”
The Planning Commission’s recommendation then went to the McMillan Town Board for approval. The board voted to remain with county zoning at its Feb. 13 meeting.