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Election afterthoughts

Duplication, Redundancy, and Repetition

By Jerry Deschane

Feb. 13, 2003

Jerry Deschane
D eputy Executive
Vice President
Wisconsin Builders Association

Every now and then, I find out something about government regulation of the construction industry that shocks me.

Keeping in mind that my dad was a builder, I worked for government housing agencies and that I’ve represented builders for almost ten years, you get a sense that I’m not easy to shock. This one did it, however.

It’s all about grading: Hooking up the plow, starting up the Cat and bringing in the backhoe. By my count, grading for a new home done anywhere within shouting distance of the water is subject to six — count them, six — sets of regulations.

Six books of rules being written, read and misread by four or five different layers of bureaucracies. Six different permits issued by agencies that not only don’t cooperate, they often don’t like each other. All of that to decide how you should move dirt A from ground B to pile C without muddying water D.

There’s the Uniform Dwelling Code, which by law regulates construction site erosion for single-family homes. There’s the Department of Natural Resources, which by law regulates stormwater runoff from land disturbances of an acre or more — or smaller, if the department wants to. Then, there’s the DNR again, which regulates land-disturbing activity near any "navigable" water.

Don’t get confused about the two DNRs. This is really the same DNR, but the rules are different, and they’re not to be confused with the first set of DNR rules.

Is it the same dirt? Yes. Is it the same water? Yes. Is it the same set of rules? No. Why not? Because.

Now stop interrupting. You’re making me lose count.

Wait, there’s more

There’s county zoning, which is authorized by law to regulate stormwater runoff in areas subject to shoreland zoning. There’s also the town board, which is authorized to issue building permits, driveway permits and sometimes zoning permits.

All of those town permits may or may not regulate moving aforementioned Dirt A. If Dirt A happens to fall within 1.5 miles of City E, City E has the authority to sign off on various and sundry things that may be done with Dirt A, including whether Dirt A can be moved if it’s on too steep of a Slope F.

That’s six. For the sake of simplicity, I did not mention regional plan commissions, which have the power to say "yea" or "nay" regarding sewer extensions, including whether that sewer extension will go up hill or down dale without moving too much of Dirt A into Water D.

Mentioned in this Article

Protection Agency

Gov. Jim Doyle

Wisconsin Builders Association

Wisconsin Department
of Natural Resources

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Did I mention the Environmental Protection Agency? Or the Army Corps of Engineers? They care about the relationship between Dirt A and Water D too, but usually, there’s no Dirt A left to go around by the time it gets to their desks.

And, since they’re federal agencies, the state and local agencies don’t like to let them play in their Dirt A or Water D anyway.

Cleaning house

Make no mistake. Keeping the dirt out of the lake is important.

Builders are no different than any other Wisconsin residents. They enjoy the high-quality environment of this state, and they’ve demonstrated time and again their willingness to go the extra mile and spend an extra buck to protect that environment.

But six sets of regulations?

What brought this little bureaucratic food fight to my attention is the publication of newly-revised NR 216, which governs the regulation of stormwater.

NR 216 will be presented to the Natural Resources Board two weeks from today, with a request that the rule be sent out for public hearing. The proposal comes close but misses an opportunity to merge at least a few of those six different rulebooks.

Keep an eye on this newspaper for the public hearing schedule. If you get a chance, attend a hearing, or send DNR a letter asking them how many regulators it takes to keep Dirt A out of Water D.

Did Governor Doyle say something about a "reformation budget"? We may have some suggestions where he can start.

Jerry Deschane is the deputy executive vice president of the Wisconsin Builders Association.

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