Advocate for town government in Dane County
January 13, 2016
(T. of Verona)
|February 17, 2016||Exec Board Meeting|
|March 16, 2016||Exec Board Meeting|
|March 30, 2016||Membership Meeting|
|April 20, 2016||Exec Board Meeting|
|May 18, 2016||Membership Meeting|
|June 15, 2016||Exec Board Meeting|
|July 20, 2016||Exec Board Meeting|
|August 17, 2016||Annual Meeting|
|September 21, 2016||Exec Board Meeting|
|October 19, 2015||Membership Meeting|
|November 9, 2016||Exec Board Meeting|
|December 14, 2016||Exec Board Meeting|
Date: March 18, 2016
A Response to Dane County
TOWNS WILL MEET CITIZEN NEEDS JUST FINE, THANK YOU
Having lost its attempt to stop towns from winning approval of zoning withdrawal legislation, Dane County is now urging towns to reject withdrawal before towns have even seen the details of what will happen. The County’s dire warnings are premature at best. In the 21 months before towns will actually withdraw, the DCTA will complete work already underway to create a first-class zoning ordinance and administrative system. We think the County’s concern is not really about the quality of decision-making, but rather, to use scare tactics to try to persuade towns not to withdraw, maintaining the County’s control over town zoning. Let’s look at the facts.
Hundreds of Towns Already Handle Zoning in Wisconsin
Dane County towns certainly can handle zoning. How do we know this? One Dane County town, Westport, already has done so for more than a decade. Hundreds of towns around Wisconsin, including all the towns in Rock County, Brown County, Washington County and Sheboygan County, have done so for decades. Dane County towns are no less capable. In fact, there are considerable resources available to handle the zoning task. The DCTA already is working with professional services consultants to create a zoning program which will be ready for prime time by the time town zoning will take effect, on January 1, 2018.
Why The Propaganda Campaign?
Dane County obviously spent considerable money and effort to put together a polished, lengthy pamphlet telling towns how important it is for towns to continue to have access to the county’s resources. The County contends that its staff, records, databases and experience are essential to good zoning decision-making. We don’t doubt that these resources are useful. Indeed, we have repeatedly told the County that the DCTA would urge towns to continue to use the County for zoning administration after withdrawal, if the County would agree.
But the County has made it clear: if a town decides to withdraw, the County will cut that town off. This is at best insulting – these resources were financed by the taxpayers, after all. If these resources are so vital to good zoning, what’s stopping the County from offering to make those resources available to towns which withdraw?
Only one thing will change after a town withdraws: the town will make the final land use decisions. That’s what the County opposes and is trying to prevent. The County hopes that towns will react quickly, out of fear of change. They hope that towns will decline to declare their zoning independence out of fear.
It is each town’s choice what to do. The DCTA worked very hard to give towns that choice. More work is ahead for towns which withdraw. There will be challenges. We do not now have every detail buttoned up, so there is uncertainty. But nothing important is ever gained without those sacrifices. We happen to believe that freedom is worth the price.
In the space below, we answer the rhetorical questions posed in the County’s pamphlet. We also refer you to some of the memos we wrote on the legislation, which address these issues in detail. Please attend the DCTA special meeting on March 30, 2016 at the Town of Westport. We will be providing you with an overview of how the town zoning system will be developed and will work. Don’t be rushed.
Please remember the County’s memo is asking towns to decide to stay with the County now even though the choice is actually months away and implementation is 21 months away. Towns should keep their options open.
How will towns pay for the cost of planning, zoning, and land division administration?
The taxes and fees which have been going to the County will come to the towns instead. The County has been spending $900,000 a year. We’re confident we can do a better job for that much, and we may be able to spend less.
Will town property tax payers see an increase in taxes?
No, because levy limits won’t allow an increase in taxes. Towns will transfer levy from the County to the town, but total taxes will not increase.
Will applicants for zoning permits pay higher fees?
We will be replacing two layers of regulation with one. The fees now being charged are more than sufficient to pay for zoning review.
Can a private sector consultant provide direct customer service on a daily basis, or are services going to be compromised?
The consultant we are working with has a far larger staff than the County zoning department does. Towns will be able to consolidate building inspection with zoning administration. And if service isn’t good, towns will have an option they currently don’t – find another service provider.
What impact will opting out have on relationships with neighboring towns, cities, and villages?
Towns will be able to negotiate and work with neighboring cities and villages on a more level playing field. The cities and villages won’t like that, but they will no longer be able to use the County to hold back the towns. That can’t help but give towns better outcomes. You have only to compare the experience of the Town of Bristol with that of the Town of Verona. Bristol, because it had more control over its development than Verona, has been able to hold off its growing neighbors. Under the County’s control, Dane County has lost five of its towns. We can’t do worse than that.
What impact will towns opting out have on the county’s ability to provide planning and zoning services to towns that remain with county zoning?
That depends on the County. The County has indicated that the County won’t provide services to towns which choose to withdraw from zoning. Towns will certainly work with their neighbors, but the towns will manage their own futures. If the County wants to continue the coordination and cooperation, the County needs to accept that Dane County towns now have the choice which other towns in Wisconsin have
ZONING WITHDRAWAL LEGISLATION SIGNED INTO LAW
March 2, 2016
Legislation giving towns in Dane County the option to withdraw from the County zoning ordinance was signed into law on February 29, 2016. It has been published as 2015 Wisconsin Act 178, and took effect today. Now that the bill is a law, DCTA will be working to prepare for its implementation. The first opportunity to withdraw opens on January 1, 2017. DCTA is committed to providing towns’ guidance and assistance to benefit from the new law.
BENEFITS FOR EVERY TOWN
Every town – whether it decides to withdraw or not – will benefit from a provision in the new law which allows town to adopt comp plans in a manner which requires the County to adopt those town comprehensive plans and official maps as written by the town, without change. Ever since the comp planning law was adopted, Dane County has insisted (incorrectly) that the County can decide whether or not to adopt town comp plans. The County has pressured towns to change draft town plans to suit the County. In some cases, the County has refused to adopt portions of town plans the County did not like. That all changes.
The law includes the following provision:
59.69 (3) (b) The development plan shall include the master plan, if any, of any
city or village, that was adopted under s. 62.23 (2) or (3) and the official map, if
any, of such city or village, that was adopted under s. 62.23 (6) in the county,
without change. In counties with a population of at least 485,000, the
development plan shall also include, and integrate, the master plan and the official
map of a town that was adopted under s. 60.62 (6) (a) or (b), without change.
The term “master plan” means a comprehensive plan, sec. 66.1001 (1)(a) 2., Wis. Stats. The “official map” is a map adopted by a town, village or city which shows the location of present and future streets and other infrastructure.
DCTA will ask the County to adopt the entire comp plans of the towns that it has previously refused to adopt in their entirety. In the future, towns will have the authority to reject suggestions or demands from the County. We’re not saying the County staff never has good suggestions. We’re saying that it should be up to the town to decide whether to take the advice.
Towns can proceed to adopt their comp plans under the statute whether or not towns ultimately decide to withdraw. We asked for the provision because it will help every town in the county, even those which do not want to withdraw. Under the comp planning law, zoning decisions are required to be made consistently with the comp plan. Because the town comp plans are incorporated into the County’s plan, the County will be required to follow the town plan.
The provision requiring the County to follow the town official map will also give towns leverage in development decisions. It will allow towns to determine where streets should go, how long they should be, and what dimensions they should have. There will be no more dictates by the county on the maximum length of cul-de-sacs or other issues.
ZONING WITHDRAWAL – THE PATH AHEAD
We have been preparing for the contingency of adoption of the bill for some time. We have a timeline prepared. Preliminary work to write the zoning ordinance has started. We have worked with a contractor with extensive experience in local zoning administration, and will be able to offer towns an administrative solution which will handle the responsibilities of the new law. We are confident the system we create will be better, more timely and more economical.
Property owners no longer will have to drive into downtown Madison to meet with County staff in order to apply for a zoning permit or a rezone. There will be one level of approval and fee rather than two.
We’re certain there are lots of questions about the path ahead. For that reason, we’ll be presenting a briefing on implementation of the law on Wednesday March 30, 2016 at 7 p.m. at the Town of Westport. We will explain the timelines involved, what each town will need to do, and how we will accomplish it.
A MORE LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
Every town, whether it withdraws or not, now has more leverage in dealing with the County and its neighboring cities and villages. We haven’t eliminated extraterrorial jurisdiction, which we never sought to do. We have, however, obtained the ability for towns to work out land use issues with neighboring communities without one hand tied behind their back.
Passage of AB 563 is the result of decades of struggle to end towns’ status as second-
class communities. We are very proud of the result.
This memorandum was drafted by DCTA Legal Counsel Mark Hazelbaker and approved by DCTA President Jerry Derr and Vice President Tim Roehl.
Memo to Dane County Towns
Date: January 19, 2016
Re: Much Too Little, Much Too Late
Don’t be fooled by Dane County’s offer of a comprehensive revision. It’s just a ploy to
stop our withdrawal legislation. The County did something similar in 2014 when our last bill was starting to attract support. They offered reform and then did nothing.
Dane County has known we would pursue this bill ever since they refused to respond to
our proposal for reform in April 2014. If they really wanted to prepare a comprehensive revision, they’ve already 21 months to start and work on one.
The County offered a comprehensive revision because they see our bill moving forward.
They still hope to stop it. They won’t. They also hope to hold on to as much control over towns as possible. Under a comprehensive revision, the County retains significant power over towns, by comparison to our bill.
Under our bill, towns could opt out and be free of County control. Even if the County
actually adopted a revision, that would not free the towns. The County would retain control over the towns’ zoning ordinances. The County would control land divisions. The County would continue to claim it controls comp plans.
Bottom line: with comprehensive revision by this County, towns would have their own
zoning ordinance, but would be unable to use that ordinance in any meaningful way. The County’s proposal is a smokescreen. Even their own memo to the Legislature acknowledges that the County would rather lose some power than all power. That is what this issue is about – whether power will lodge with the people of the Towns or the people of the urban majority.
Stay the course. Support AB 563 / SB 479.
Memo to Dane County Towns
Date: December 15, 2015
Re: Update On Town Zoning Bill, AB 563
Legislation which will enhance the ability of Dane County Towns to survive and thrive in the 21st century had a positive reception from the Assembly Housing and Real Estate Committee last week. The legislation, which gives towns the option of withdrawing from the Dane County zoning ordinance, was heard by the Committee. The DCTA is optimistic this bill – which has been pursued for decades by the Wisconsin Towns Association in various forms – has a real chance to pass this session. We want to summarize the status of the bill, which was sponsored by legislators who represent Dane County towns.
What the Bill Does
Every town in Dane County is subject to county zoning, but not because the County has the power to force towns to do so, or because state law mandated that towns do so. Actually, at one time or another, every town made the choice to accept County zoning. Because of a 1951 Supreme Court interpretation of the county zoning statute, however, towns cannot repeal the approval of the County ordinance. The bill corrects that by giving towns the same ability to repeal County zoning which towns had in adopting it. It does not allow towns to have no zoning. Towns which withdraw will have to have zoning. It also leaves shoreland and floodplain zoning with the County.
Under the bill, towns in Dane County would be permitted to withdraw from the County’s ordinance. If a town withdraws, the town will have the authority to decide what zoning district applies to which parcels. The towns will not have to write its own zoning ordinance. The bill provides that the towns withdrawing from county zoning will draft and administer one shared ordinance. Or, if any town actually prefers the County’s 1937 ordinance, the town can continue under it. Each town will, however, decide which zoning district to apply to individual parcels.
Towns will not have to create zoning administration and enforcement on their own, or be without financial resources. The DCTA has been in contact with professional services firms which already administer zoning for communities which do not wish to hire staff to do so. Several smaller villages in Dane County administer zoning that way. In those towns which withdraw, the County will no longer be involved, and therefore, will not be charging zoning fees. Further, the tax levy the County imposes for zoning can be shifted to the town, if needed. The County spends almost $900,000 per year on zoning. That should be more than sufficient for the administration that needs to be done.
Why Is the Legislation Needed?
Dane County’s zoning committee and rezoning process are controlled by the urban majority of the County. The current 5-member committee has just one member whose district is composed of a majority of town residents. Unsurprisingly, the process has not worked with towns to help them fend off annexations. Under Dane County’s control, five of the 35 towns in Dane County either have disappeared or will within the next few years. The example of the Town of Burke was probably the most blatant. The County simply dragged out and/or refused to go along with efforts by the Town to adopt a land use plan and zoning which would have provided property owners with an alternative to annexation. The County held the Town back while the City of Madison moved forward.
Dane County has called zoning a partnership. In a partnership, the parties either agree on a course of action or dissolve the relationship. In the zoning “partnership,” the County’s agenda of drastic reductions and limits on rural growth were the only choice – even if that choice meant that towns such as Burke and Blooming Grove were gobbled up. The lack of zoning authority is a major reason why Windsor became a village.
We are aware that a significant number of towns oppose the legislation. We respect the towns’ right to remain in the County zoning system if those towns believe it meets their needs. But, our Association has long maintained that towns and town residents must have the same power to decide the future of the town which is enjoyed by cities and villages and their residents. If your town does not wish to grow, we respect and will defend that choice. If your town wants to stop all other towns from growing, that is inconsistent with the philosophy of local control which the DCTA and the Wisconsin Towns Association have supported for decades. We cannot agree that towns should be forced to accept a system which is not good for their residents.
The DCTA has made many attempts over many years to fix the County’s zoning system. Those efforts have been unsuccessful. Simply stated, the urban majority of the County Board will never yield power over the towns to the people who actually live there.
We are not inventing our complaints about the County’s domination of the towns. We didn’t have to lose five towns. In Outagamie County, the Town of Grand Chute (where the Fox River Mall is located) remained in existence because the Town was not prevented from accommodating urban growth.
Nor is our perception of Dane County’s policymaking abuse of towns either an exaggeration or a fantasy. Dane County is the only large county in Wisconsin which is not part of a regional planning commission for a reason, one we have become very aware of from 20 years of working on the RPC issue. Our neighboring counties want no part of Dane County’s approach to land use and growth.
The County and others have tried to tell the world that the County zoning system is really good for towns. The DCTA appreciates the good work the County staff does. If towns could use the County staff to administer zoning while the towns adopt the zoning, some towns would be pleased to do so. But Dane County’s zoning policy decisions are not a partnership. The County keeps claiming that they approve 98 percent of the zoning petitions. That statistic is completely misleading. Everyone in the County knows the County’s agenda is dead set against rural growth. In the process of approving comprehensive plans, the County made it clear – by rejecting portions of plans the County did not like – that the County would not accept any town plan that seriously differed from the County’s vision. Only a few people are willing to spend thousands of dollars preparing a zoning proposal they know the County won’t like. But many of those kinds of proposals deserve a hearing.
And, the County, city and village officials have expressed dire warnings about allowing towns to have their own zoning. They have stated that regional needs, growth pressures and environmental protection require that the County manage town land use in the overall public interest. Interestingly, our city and village colleagues think highly of county control, but not highly enough to submit the cities and villages to county control. As to the broader point, town residents are just as capable of making good decisions as anyone else. A review of town comprehensive plans show a great deal of attention and effort to protecting the environment and preserving farmland. Town residents are not stupid or thoughtless. It is condescending and insulting to suggest that towns need the tutelage of the County. Somehow, one third of the towns in Wisconsin manage zoning on their own, including towns in urban counties such as Brown, Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Winnebago and Rock.
What is Next?
The legislation will be acted on by the committee. The Senate committee will also hold a hearing, and, we hope, the bill will be considered by the Legislature next spring.
PLEASE TAKE NOTICE, pursuant to Article IV of the By-Laws of the DCTA, that the
Association shall hold its biennial election of Directors on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 7:00
p.m. at the Town Hall of the Town of Middleton, 7555 Old Sauk Road, Town of Middleton.
THE DCTA BOARD AND DISTRICTS
The DCTA Board of Directors consists of seven (7) members. Any elected Town Chairperson,
Supervisor, Clerk or Treasurer is eligible to seek election to the Board. An appointed Town
Administrator, Clerk or Treasurer may seek election with approval of the Town Board by whom they were appointed.
The Board is elected from seven (7) Districts. The incumbent Director and their town is listed.
District 1 – Bristol, Burke, Sun Prairie, Windsor and York. [Jerry Derr, Bristol].
District 2 – Blooming Grove, Cottage Grove, Deerfield, Dunn, Medina [Steve Schultz, Medina]
District 3 – Albion, Christiana, Dunkirk, Pleasant Springs, Rutland [Ted Olson, Dunkirk]
District 4 – Blue Mounds, Montrose, Oregon, Perry, Primrose [Mick Klein Kennedy,Perry]
District 5 – Madison, Middleton, Springdale, Verona [Tim Roehl, Middleton].
District 6 – Berry, Black Earth, Cross Plains, Springfield, Vermont [Jim Pulvermacher, Springfield]
District 7 – Dane, Mazomanie, Roxbury, Vienna, Westport. [Robert Lee, Dane].
The Director position for District 7 is open because Mr. Lee was not reelected to the Town of Dane Board. In other Districts, it is up to the individual directors to communicate their interest in seeking re-election to their Districts.
BOARD MEMBER DUTIES
The Board meets monthly and as needed. Meetings are scheduled to meet the calendars of the Board. They have been held on the third Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. Board members establish policy of the DCTA on pending issues; set the budget of the Association; represent the Association on important issues, and oversee the Association’s consultants.
Board members are expected to attend Board meetings and to contribute expertise and interest in various areas of town government. It is highly desirable that Board members be willing to attend meetings of state and county committees or agencies on behalf of the Association.
Board members receive an honorarium of $50 per meeting, including Board meetings and
meetings of other bodies as Association representatives.
The Towns included in each district caucus to elect a director. Each town has one vote. If there is a difference of opinion among the Town supervisors present, the Town’s vote is cast according to the majority of Town Board members from a town present and voting.
The DCTA has a President and a Vice President. Those officers are elected by the Board of
Directors from within the Board membership. They will be elected at the Annual Meeting after the Board of Directors is elected.
This memo was drafted by DCTA Legal Counsel.
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.