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January 27, 2020

12/10/2019 7:30:00 AM
Work begins on updating city zoning code
Move will rezone property to correct use, streamline process

Jamie Taylor
River News Reporter

The consultant hired by the Rhinelander City Council to conduct a land development audit and update the city's zoning ordinances met with the city's planning commission last Tuesday to present a report on the project.

The goal is to get all property within the city limits properly zoned to its present use.

When the process began in September, Mark Roffers of MDRoffers Consulting of Madison said his work wouldn't be completed within a couple of months. He reiterated that last week.

"This is going to take the better part of a year to work through," Roffers told the commission.

The end result will be a whole new set of zoning ordinances, with definitions of classifications and land uses and an updated zoning map.

"In the spring of 2020, we will have a gotten to a zoning map and where the different zoning districts ought to be all laid out in a city zoning map," Roffers said. "In many cases, the zoning will be exactly what it is today, in some places it will be different."

At the September meeting, when Roffers was introduced to the commission, fire chief and building inspector Terry Williams told the group that property owners find it difficult to get financing on their improperly zoned property.

He also noted that property owners will be invited to a public forum to offer input.

At the same time, work is ongoing on the rewrite of the zoning ordinance involving procedural standards.

"Things like signage and landscaping will all be codified in ordinance," Roffers said.

Given the volume of work to be done, a first draft is probably eight to nine months away, he added.

"By summer, we'll have a full first draft of a new zoning ordinance and the full first draft of the new zoning map," Roffers said.

According to Roffers, the biggest impact of the zoning update should be a reduction in conditional use permits (CUP) in the city.

"We will be working with staff to review the zoning of every property in the city to see if it is appropriately zoned," Roffers said.

An intended goal of a streamlined and updated zoning code and map will be more interest from developers because the process will be easier to navigate, it was noted.

"The one other thing I think we can really do with this zoning ordinance process is to make it easier to develop housing," Roffers said.

One addition to the zoning classifications will be one for institutional properties such as schools that currently don't fit neatly in the code.

Also, rewriting the code will give the city an opportunity to flex what little muscle it has on short-term housing rentals.

One other benefit to the city-wide rezone is "we will have fewer noncompliances" since no property will be rezoned to be out of compliance with the new code that doesn't meet present standards, Williams noted.

Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernews

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