Zoning, land use, ag and livestock regs reviewed by Burnett CAFO committee

Mary Stirrat | Staff writer
SIREN – Burnett County’s large-scale livestock ad hoc committee continues to research ordinance changes that may be needed to address new concentrated animal feeding operations.
Last week, at its Feb. 12 meeting, the committee’s focus was on current state and local zoning, land use, livestock siting and agricultural regulations.
Jason Towne, the county’s land services director and zoning administrator, started by providing background information, saying that the first hint of land use and zoning in the United States dates back to 1692 in Boston.
Wisconsin’s first zoning ordinance was created in Milwaukee in 1920 and withheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1923. In 1966 the state started requiring that all counties zone their shorelands and floodplains to meet standards established by the Department of Natural Resources.
Seven of Burnett County’s 21 towns adopted zoning in 1971, with another 10 signing on between 1990 and 2008. The towns of Blaine, LaFollette, Sand Lake and Wood River have no zoning except in the shoreland and floodplain areas.
In general, said Towne, the purpose of zoning is to protect public health, safety and general welfare, to promote desirable development patterns and maintain community character, and to protect natural resources as well as public and private investments.
Its intent, he continued, is to “balance individual property rights with the interests of the community to create a healthy, safe and orderly living environment.”
There are 13 zoning classifications in Burnett County, including four agricultural districts.
Each district as classified allows certain permitted uses while other uses require a conditional use permit. Obtaining a conditional use permit requires an application and fee, a public hearing and a determination. Application is made to the zoning administrator, who refers it to the land use and information committee. The committee schedules the public hearing and determines whether to grant the permit.
Currently in Burnett County, 130,910 acres are zoned A-2, agriculture-residential, where a one- or two-family dwelling is allowed. A 10-acre minimum is required for this zoning.
Another 30,480 acres are zoned exclusive agriculture, requiring a 35-acre minimum. Agriculture-transition districts make up 1,000 acres in the county, typically to allow a transition area between agricultural areas and residential communities.
Zoning district A-4, agriculture-forestry-residential, encompasses 700 acres. Towne said A-4 districts are very similar to A-2 districts and may eventually be changed to A-2.
At this time, he said, large-scale animal feeding operations are permitted in each agricultural zoning district. In the county’s four unzoned towns, CAFOs would be allowed in all areas except those designated as shoreland or floodplain.
Towne presented a list of five possible zoning/land use items that could be evaluated as they relate to CAFOs.
First he asked which zoning districts should be considered for large-scale livestock operations.
Secondly, he asked whether ag zoning districts should be evaluated based on factors such as soils, depth to groundwater, slopes, proximity to surface water, dwellings or other buildings and existing land cover.
The third item is consideration of what text changes are needed for existing ordinances. Fourth is whether potential changes would have an impact on eligibility for the farmland preservation program and, finally, what changes are allowed under ATCP 51, the state’s current livestock facility siting regulation.
Randy Gilbertson, the county’s ag resources planner, took the floor to discuss livestock siting and agriculture. He began by providing a list of livestock siting and ag laws in Wisconsin as well as the county’s ordinance.
He noted that an increase in the understanding of issues surrounding larger livestock operations, particularly regarding manure disposal, began around 2007. The primary intent of the laws and regulations, he said, is to protect environmental factors.
ies by at least 20%, allowing for seasonal changes in animal population.
At the county level are the animal waste and livestock facility management section of the livestock siting/ag ordinance. It divides livestock facilities into class A, for new facilities of 500 or more animal units and existing facilities expanding to that size, and class B, having less than 500 animal units. Class B also includes expansions of existing facilities by at least 20%, allowing for seasonal changes in animal population.
Class A facilities require a permit in compliance with the state’s siting laws which, among other things, require a nutrient/manure management plan and a $500 application fee. Class B facilities require a manure management plan. The county conservationist is responsible for conducting any on-site visits he or she feels necessary to ensure compliance.
Gilbertson also had a list of items that the committee may want to evaluate, including whether a wider variety of animals should be included. Current ordinances do not require a permit for bison, horses, farm-raised deer, captive game birds, mink or camelids such as llamas, alpacas and camels.
He suggested the committee also look at whether the number of animal units to be regulated under each class should be evaluated, and whether fees should be adjusted to reflect actual costs.
Committee member Craig Conroy suggested that existing laws to protect groundwater should be considered. Also discussed was the consideration of current zoning designations to make sure they are appropriate.
The committee is scheduled to meet again Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 1 p.m. This meeting will include a presentation by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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