County Resisting Zoning Change

Source: County of Door Land Use Services.

The Door County Board of Supervisors closed out 2022 with a one-of-a-kind situation that involved Resource Planning Committee (RPC) members reneging on their support of a request that had come from the Town of Liberty Grove.

The town had petitioned the county to allow two additional types of businesses in Heartland-10 (HL-10) zoning: auto repair and trade or contractor services (plumbers, heating and air conditioning contractors, excavators, carpenters, wastewater treatment system contractors and other uses). Currently, those types of businesses are allowed in HL-10 only as home businesses, which must be run by a resident of the home and are limited in size and the level of activity. 

Liberty Grove’s petition began in April 2022 with Jonathan Orrick and his family, who live on Wildwood Court. Orrick requested a change because it would allow for expansion of his family’s current business while filling a niche that’s not currently being met for small-service businesses, according to Liberty Grove’s April 20, 2022, approved meeting minutes. It would also “help the next generation return to the area and start their own businesses without initially purchasing retail space,” Karee Orrick added during the same meeting.

The town’s plan commission and board backed the HL-10 amendment – it would “unobtrusively increase employment opportunities” within the town, said town board supervisor and plan commission chair Nancy Goss, according to the town’s approved, April 20, 2022, meeting minutes – and petitioned the county for it. 

Initially, the town had considered rezoning to Countryside-10 (CS-10), but it decided the amendment would be simpler. And, because it would require conditional uses, the town could set conditions as needed for things such as lighting, screening, dust control and noise. In addition, CS-10 allowed 17 additional uses that the town didn’t currently have and wasn’t sure it wanted, such as kennels and sawmills, said Supervisor Walter “Bud” Kalms, who is also Liberty Grove’s town administrator, during the county board’s Dec. 20 meeting. 

Kalms said the town supported the HL-10 change because it would allow someone to start a business without having to build a home first, and it would create economic opportunities for families with children.

“The town looked at it as a way families could retain their younger people instead of them graduating and moving away and not having a chance to continue with a family business,” Kalms said. “Those were big reasons why the town wanted to get something like this in effect.”

There are 735 HL-10 zoning parcels in Door County, and 734 of them are in Liberty Grove. The only one that’s not in Liberty Grove is in Baileys Harbor along County EE. Still, a change to the county zoning ordinance is a change for all towns with county zoning, so even if 99% of the current HL-10 zoning parcels are within Liberty Grove, that may not be the case in the future.

“Any property owner can petition to any zoning district they choose,” said Mariah Goode, director of the county’s Land Use Services.

HL-10 parcels are a minimum of 10 acres and are “intended to help maintain the rural character of areas of the interior of Door County,” according to the county’s classification. Several supervisors during the Dec. 20 meeting said they did not see how commercial uses fit that intention.

“It does seem like sort of a commercial use out in the countryside, and it seems like not the greatest idea,” said Supervisor Bob Bultman, whose district includes Baileys Harbor and Jacksonport.

The more pressing problem for the board, however, was the reversal from the RPC. The five-member committee had approved the request by a vote of 4-1 on Dec. 1, but three of those people no longer supported it by the Dec. 20 county board meeting. Only supervisor and RPC member Hugh Zettel had voted against it Dec. 1, and supervisor and RPC member Roy Englebert did not say he had changed his mind. Supervisor and RPC chair Dave Enigl and supervisors and RPC members Ken Fisher and Morgan Rusnak all did, giving similar versions of the same reason.

“I, like several board members, had a longer opportunity to think about the testimony, and I will also be voting against it now,” Enigl said.

County board members aren’t privy to the hours-long testimony the RPC hears. Given the reversals, several county board members said they wanted to send the request back to the RPC for a redo. That threw staff members into a quandary. 

“To be clear,” Goode said, “I’ve never had this happen. There’s always been a motion to recommend, deny, or recommend with revisions. We did two mailings to everybody zoned Heartland 10 [735 parcels, in preparation for the RPC meeting], and it was not inexpensive.” 

Kalms said the town accepted county zoning in 1996, believing it could change things that didn’t work for it.

“The town adopted the plan [county zoning] in good faith, with the idea that modification could be made, but now it sounds like there’s opposition to what the town wants,” he said.

Corporation Counsel Sean Donohue suggested the board postpone the decision for another month to give him time to dig into statute – which is what the board decided with a 16-5 vote. The topic will return to the board during its Jan. 24 meeting.

Related Organizations