The February 18, 2015 Membership Meeting will be at 7:00 pm at the Cottage Grove Town Hall. Jolene Plautz, WTA contract lobbyist will give an update on current legislative issues and the state budget just released last night. There are a number of critical issues in that budget regarding towns.
DANE COUNTY TO PROPOSE ORDINANCE RECREATING
FLOODPLAIN ORDINANCE July 9, 2014
The DCTA will carefully monitor proposals update the County’s floodplain ordinance, Ch. 17 of the Code. If the proposal does no more than follow the mandated elements of Wisconsin law, there is neither reason nor opportunity to object to the change. However, the DCTA and towns should oppose any attempt to use the update as a way to adopt provisions more restrictive than mandated.
Under 1973 legislation, the federal government adopted and enforces flood protection regulations applicable to all states. Those regulations make federal flood insurance available only if the state in which the property is located has adopted a floodplain management system, including mandatory zoning of all floodplains. Wisconsin has participated in the program for decades. Wisconsin adopted sec. 87.30, Wis. Stats., which mandates floodplain management. In unincorporated areas, counties adopt and enforce floodplain zoning. Town approval of the original and amended County ordinances is not required, sec. 59.692, Wis. Stats., NR 116, Wis. Adm. Code.
DCTA certainly supports floodplain zoning as it has been adopted in Wisconsin. Dane County has existing floodplain zoning which is found in Chapter 17 of the County Code of Ordinances. Under the federal program, floodplain zoning must prohibit construction of structures intended for human habitation in areas where there is a 1 percent probability of a flood in any given year. These areas are commonly known as “100 year floodplains.” The area included in the floodplain is determined by hydrology studies which consider rainfall, terrain, soils and historical flooding patterns. The floodplain studies result in preparation of Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The maps include areas within communities. Each map area is known as a “panel.” The map panels are updated periodically to reflect better data and changes in watersheds.
Every Wisconsin county, city and village is required to have a floodplain ordinance which complies with NR 116 standards. The ordinance also must adopt all of the FIRM panels that have been prepared for the jurisdiction, and additional flood prevention maps, such as the area below a dam which would be flooded if the dam failed.
Currently, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is working with counties, cities and villages to update floodplain ordinances to comply with the DNR’s 2012 model ordinance. DNR recommends the model ordinance be adopted by communities to comply with the State’s requirements. The model ordinance is drafted so that the adopting community need only insert the community’s name in five places in order to comply.
Dane County staff originally planned to amend Chapter 17 of the County Code to address necessary updates. Recently OA 40 was introduced by Supervisor Patrick Miles to make updating amendments to Chapter 17. After OA 40 was introduced, County staff learned that the DNR preferred that the County repeal and recreate the entire chapter in a form consistent with the DNR model ordinance. Brian Standing, Dane County senior planner, informed DCTA that the County will be introducing an ordinance amendment which is currently in drafting. There is a public hearing scheduled for July 22. The proposed ordinance is not yet available. The DNR’s model ordinance is available for review now.
The model ordinance tracks the requirements of NR 116. I reviewed the model ordinance, which was issued by the current DNR leadership. I am satisfied that it does not exceed the mandate of NR 116 and federal law.
DCTA learned of the proposal to repeal and recreate Chapter 17 only after someone brought a legal notice in the Wisconsin State Journal to our attention. That notice is the legal notice of the July 22, 2014 public hearing. No notice of the proposal or need to adopt a complete rewrite of Chapter 17 was sent to the Towns, the DCTA or the Dane County Cities and Villages Association [county floodplain ordinances indirectly affect cities and villages]. The ordinance is not a Chapter 10 amendment, and is not subject to Town veto. We would have appreciated hearing about this more directly. We have no indication that the County’s actions were improperly motivated, however, and may have been an oversight.
We note that Supervisor Patrick Miles has consistently attempted to communicate with the DCTA and towns about proposals he has advanced. Nonetheless, this issue is moving forward very quickly and with little time to evaluate.
For that reason, we will be watching for amendments.
This memo was written by Attorney Mark Hazelbaker. A version of the memo was reviewed by the DCTA Board. The Board will be taking formal action on this issue at its July 16, 2014 meeting.
Dear Town Chairs, Supervisors and Citizens:
Towns and other local governments are being challenged by Dane County. The issue of the moment is mineral extraction. The real issue is broader – the County’s desire to dictate to towns and local governments. We must stand together to preserve local control.
You are aware that recently, Dane County Towns voted by a 21-13 margin to veto OA 26. The ordinance amendment was directed at mineral extraction sites that were planned for long-term reserve status under a 1968 County ordinance. In response, the County Executive and some county board members have proposed a revised ordinance which requires these sites to obtain a reclamation plan immediately. DCTA is sending out a separate analysis of the revised ordinance, which DCTA opposes. This letter addresses the more serious problem – the challenge to local control.
In a press release issued by County Executive Parisi, he asserted "Dane County residents deserve more say in what goes on in their neighborhoods, not less.” In fact, towns already have controlling say on mineral extraction sites. Towns can adopt ordinances regulating hours of operation, truck routes, requiring reclamation plans and other subjects which would be regulated by conditional use permits.
OA 26 will not give towns any power over mineral extraction sites which towns do not already have. What OA 26 will do is give the County zoning and land regulation committee the power to block the use of mineral extraction operations which have been identified for 46 years as potential sites. Our experience with the zoning committee has not been favorable in recent years. We have every reason to believe that the zoning committee will reject mineral extraction proposals even when the local town supports them. Indeed, the Committee just did exactly that in March with a proposed mineral extraction site strongly supported by the Town of Albion. Despite strong town support, the Committee rejected it because a professor from the State of Maryland, who never even saw the site, wrote a letter questioning it.
The County Executive says that he wants more local control, but the County’s actions say just the opposite, and loudly.
The debate over OA 26 is more than just a difference of opinion. In comments to the Wisconsin State Journal, Executive Parisi stated: “The only people that align with the towns’ position are the people who profit from the mining operations.” You are being accused of being tools of the mineral extraction industry.
Dane County will not negotiate with the towns unless the Towns force the County to do so by vetoing ordinances developed without our involvement.
The DCTA does not support opening quarries in wetlands or environmental corridors. But we do believe it is irresponsible to adopt legislation that will increase the price of the raw materials which build our roads, houses and structures. If OA 26 is adopted, inevitably it will restrict the supply and increase the price of these materials.
Beyond that immediate concern, however, is a more serious one. If the towns do not stand together against the continuing efforts by the County to impose its will on local units of government, there will be no one to stop the County from continuing to do what it has done – take more power from us and shift more costs on us.
We must hold together. We are committed to working with the Towns to help those which feel the need to regulate mineral extraction adopt ordinances to do so. The County should not make that decision for us, whether on this issue or any other.
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