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Dane County builders wary of shore land rules

By Paul Snyder

Dane County’s proposed new shore land management rules are taking a pounding from builders who say the rules are unnecessary.

“This is not an unregulated business,” said Kent Disch, government affairs director for the Madison Area Builders Association. “Builders have guidelines they need to follow at federal, state, county, city, village and town levels that already create a pretty jumbled mess. I don’t know that this is going to do anything more.”

Dane County Lakes & Watershed Commission officials disagree. They will hold public hearings Tuesday and Wednesday on a new shore land management plan designed to create uniform construction erosion control rules among municipalities.

The proposed plan divides shore land development areas into three types of water classifications: urban, developing and rural.

Brian Standing, senior planner in the county’s planning and development department, said federal, state and county rules are suitable for protecting water quality from major developments, such as subdivisions, but more rules are needed to cover smaller projects.

“The issue we’re tackling is the single lots,” he said. “To date, those lots have not had a lot of protections, and all it takes is one poorly designed new home or redevelopment project to harm a lake or stream.”

The proposed rules would require, among other things, erosion control plans for building or remodeling projects within a shore land zone, a 75-foot setback distance from shorelines on urban water and a limitation on removing vegetation within 35 feet of a shoreline.

But many of the proposed rules coincide with existing county rules or the new development rules under consideration by the state Legislature and Department of Natural Resources.

“Obviously, we don’t like more regulation,” said Thomas Zimmer, president of Fitchburg-based Thomas Zimmer Builders. “But as builders, we already know there are going to be a lot of hoops to jump through and we have to have all our ducks in a row before we even think of building near water.”

But Standing said the county needs to resolve differences in shore land rules among municipalities. He also said even with improved building techniques and different levels of regulation, construction still poses a threat to Dane County waters.

According to county documents, the new shore land management rules would prevent nearly 32,000 tons of sediment from construction sites from entering lakes, rivers and streams in the next 20 years. Standing said the 32,000 tons estimate was based on “typical construction data and a lot of simplifying of numbers.”

But that’s not good enough for builders, who want proof that new rules are needed, Disch said.

“It’s just a lot of vague discussion,” he said. “Builders want to know exactly what these rules and setback distances are going to do to the water, because it’s not hard to imagine someone that just wants to add a deck seeing these hoops and saying, ‘Forget it, I didn’t know what I was getting into.’
“Uncertainty is a bad, bad thing when it comes to building.”

Next step
WHAT: Public hearings on Dane County shore land management plan
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday
WHERE: Verona Senior Center, 108 Paoli St., Verona (Tuesday) and Sun Prairie City Office Community Room, 300 E. Main St., Sun Prairie (Wednesday)
MORE INFO: Dane County Office of Lakes and Watersheds, 608-224-3730

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