20 tips for buying a lake home in NW Wisconsin – #16 Shoreland Zoning Regulations NR 115

20 tips for buying a lake home in NW Wisconsin – #16 Shoreland Zoning Regulations NR 115
In 1980, NR 115 was amended to create minimum shoreland and wetland standards. After many committee resolutions and public hearings, the final rule went into effect February 1, 2010. Counties have two years from that time or until February, 2012 to update their shoreland ordinances to be consistent with or exceed the state’s rules.

Some standards remain the same:

  • Structures must be setback at least 75′ from the water.
  • Lots served by private septic systems must be at least 20,000 square feet in area and at least 100′ wide. Lots served by public sanitary sewers must be at least 10,000 square feet in area and be at least 65′ wide.

What has changed?

  • Impervious surface limits
  • Flexibility for nonconforming principal structures
  • Mitigation requirements

Impervious Surface Standards
An impervious surface is an area that releases all or a majority of precipitation that falls on the surface, including rooftops, sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots.
The geographical boundaries applies to property within 300’ of any waterway. No permit is required with less than a 15% impervious surface. Between 15-30%, a permit plus mitigation is required. There are also provisions to allow existing impervious surfaces.

Nonconforming Principal Structures
For a vertical expansion, the principal structure must be at least 35’ from the ordinary high water mark, cannot have discontinued use, must meet height limitations, and mitigation is required.

For a replacement or relocation, the principal structure must be at least 35’ from OHWM, cannot have discontinued use, cannot be closer to OHWM than the original structure. Cannot build in a location that meets the shoreline setback. Mitigation is required.
With a horizontal and/or vertical expansion beyond the shoreline setback, the structure must meet all other provisions of the shoreland odinance. Mitigation is not required.

Mitigation Requirements
Mitigation means balancing measures that are designed, implemented, and function to restore the natural water quality, near-shore aquatic habitat, upland wildlife habitat, and nature scenic beauty that are otherwise lost through development and human activities.
Examples of mitigation measures currently utilized in some counties:

  • Maintenance and restoration of vegetative buffer zone.
  • Evaluation and replacement of POWTS.
  • Stormwater management devices such as rain gardens, infiltration trenches, and diversion swales.
  • Elimation of nonconforming accessory structures.
  • Narrowing of the view corridor or deepening an existing depth on a buffer.
  • Painting structures natural or earth tone colors.
  • Reducing shoreland lighting.
  • Removal of shoreline structures such as seawalls, sand beaches, firepits, boathouses, etc.

What do Counties have to do to amend an Ordinance?
All counties will need to review their shoreland zoning ordinances for consistency with the new rule. The DNR has updated its model shoreland zoning ordinance that provides an example of the language counties can use to make sure their changes are consistent with the new rule.

Counties should not simply repeal their current ordinance and adopt the new model. The model ordinance is a guide that counties should use in context with their current ordinances, land use plans, input from citizens, and characteristics of area lakes and waterways. Counties will want to keep elements of their shoreland ordinances that are more protective than the state minimums.

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