With a deadline looming in October to bring the Oneida County shoreland zoning ordinance in compliance with Act 55, the county's planning and development committee continues to plug away at changes and revisions. In the 2015 budget bill, known as Act 55, the state legislature removed local shoreland zoning control from counties. As a result, counties can no longer have shoreland zoning standards that are any more restrictive than the state standards for any of their lakes and streams. All counties have an Oct. 1 deadline to bring their ordinances into compliance with Act 55.
At Wednesday's meeting, the planning and development committee discussed a boathouse-related issue that arose from a Department of Natural Resources review.
The committee members said it was unclear to them whether the DNR was suggesting or demanding the county ban concrete aprons and stairs placed on the outside of a flat-roof boathouse.
The committee members didn't speak against either item, but were concerned as to whether or not the DNR would send back that part of the ordinance if those items were allowed to remain.
"What I get frustrated with is that we got asked to adapt to a model ordinance, then all of a sudden we're talking about boathouses and in the model ordinance it doesn't say anything about restricting aprons and stairs," committee member Billy Fried said. "I feel like some people are just throwing their own interpretations in there. We're going to be back here in two years because people are going to be frustrated and elected officials are going to ask us to adopt something new that the DNR's going to interpret. That's what I'm worried about."
Another priority for the committee is that the county's ordinance not be vague like the DNR.
Regardless of whether stairs and aprons are banned or allowed, the committee wants to create language that leaves no room for ambiguity.
"One thing we've said as a committee is that if the person that comes and wants to do it, understands what they can and can't do," committee member Mike Timmons said. "We don't [want] to get in a position where we say, 'I'm sorry you have to take that out.'"
In the end, after much deliberation, the committee opted to permit stairs and aprons with conditions.
The committee voted to have 4-foot aprons and stairways that are 4-feet wide in the ordinance, with neither being part of the 700-foot square footage footprint for boathouses.
How the DNR will react to the county's move is now the question, as is how much room for interpretation the DNR will leave on other matters going forward.
A copy of the DNR model ordinance can be found on its website, while a draft of the zoning and shoreland protection ordinance can be found on the Oneida County planning and zoning department website.
Nick Sabato may be reached at nsabato@rivernewsonline. com or via Twitter @SabatoNick.
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