Gardner Town Board Postpones Vote on Adopting County Zoning

Gardner’s town board agreed Aug. 10 to postpone a vote until next month on whether to adopt Door County’s zoning.

Board members said they want to schedule a special meeting with Mariah Goode and Sue Vanden Langenberg of the county’s Land Use Services Department to get more information about what impact county zoning would have on the town before making a final decision. The town’s plan commission recommended July 25 that Gardner implement the county’s zoning, rather than have the town enact its own zoning code.

The town updated its comprehensive plan earlier this year, and the commission’s recommendation comes as a follow-up step to that process.

“[The comprehensive plan is] one step in land planning, but without some sort of zoning, some sort of code, it doesn’t do us any good,” said plan commission chair Mark Lentz. “That’s the problem we ran into with the nonmetallic mine.”

Interest in zoning has increased in Gardner during the past two years after a new limestone quarry was allowed off Stevenson Pier Road. Though neighboring residents objected to the land use, they learned that without zoning, the town couldn’t prevent the quarry from opening.

Lentz said the town has three options for zoning: create its own ordinances and enforce them; adopt the county’s zoning, which the county would administer; or do nothing.

If the town adopted its own zoning, Lentz said at least 10 ordinances would need to be adopted to cover some of the land-use matters with which the town was dealing. The town did create a mining ordinance last year following the nonmetallic mining issue.

“Just our legal costs on that [were] about $12,500,” he said. “That was one ordinance.”

Lentz said the town would also need to hire a zoning administrator and select and train a board of adjustment, with the initial cost of all the things involved in the town having its own zoning estimated at $132,000, compared to no costs to the town in adopting the county’s zoning.

Former Gardner town chair Jon Koch, who was present for the meeting, said the town would also incur legal costs, should its zoning be challenged, while county zoning would cover those legal expenses.

“You will have to hire your own attorney to fight it because the county’s not going to present one for you if they’re not part of the zoning ordinance itself,” he said.

Lentz said the town wouldn’t give up all of its control by adopting the county’s comprehensive zoning.

“That’s not the case whatsoever,” he said. “The town, whether it’s the plan commission or the town board, is still very much a part of the process.”

Current town chair Carl Waterstreet said zoning is important to Gardner because it’s growing, as is evident by the strong number of housing starts.

Though the motion calls for postponing a vote on zoning in the town until the board’s next regularly scheduled monthly meeting Sept. 14, Waterstreet said the date of a special meeting with Goode and Vanden Langenberg would depend on their schedules.