The Door County Planning Department is beginning to review its zoning code ahead of a possible change in conditional use permits currently going through the legislature. The change, wrapped in with other provisions being called the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights, will make it harder to deny conditional use permits and could make the rest of county zoning more restrictive.
“It doesn’t say that you can’t say no,” Mariah Goode, county planning department head, told the Resource Planning Committee (RPC) on Nov. 2. “But if you’re going to say no it has to be based on evidence.”
The bill, authored by Rep. Adam Jarchow, is attempting to take politics out of conditional use permits. Rep. Joel Kitchens told the county board he understands where Jarchow is coming from, but that the bill may have some unintended consequences.
“The intent of the legislation is to make local governments prove why they are denying something,” said Kitchens. “There’s always that subjectivity in there.”
The bill makes it impossible to deny a conditional use permit based solely on testimony in opposition. As long as the person seeking the permit can prove they are going to abide by the restrictions set out in the permit, no amount of neighborly opposition can prevent the county from approving it.
Goode believes the legislation may backfire as counties further restrict uses of certain zoning districts through zoning code amendments that were previously flexible under conditional use permits.
Now, Goode and her staff will go through the list of zoning districts with conditional use permits and decide how to proceed. While some uses may be so infrequent or innocuous that they can be handled with a regular zoning permit, the county may feel that other uses previously allowed with a conditional use permit are too risky under the new bill.
“Anything that’s allowed in that district is then fair game,” said Goode. “It means that anything might be coming.”
Goode also said petitions to rezone a property will also carry a lot more weight. If the RPC knows what a property owner wants to do on their lot, they may deny the rezoning request knowing that the power of a conditional use permit is diminished.
“You’re going to be deciding if what they say they want to do next is something you think should happen,” said Goode. “It’s going to make rezoning messier.”