To the Editor:
I would like to make several comments on the Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Committee’s (LWCC) recent handling of the shoreline zoning petition put forth by the Wisconsin Shoreline Initiative.
No matter where on the political spectrum one sits or what one’s feelings are regarding shoreline zoning and Act 55, the citizens and taxpayers of Vilas County should, at the very least, be extremely disappointed in the LWCC’s handling of the petition.
First, the LWCC failed to fully consider and act upon a duly presented petition that certainly fell within the LWCC’s stated responsibility “to meet or exceed the state standards to protect surface water and ground water from pollution contamination.” Arguably, appropriate action may have been to assess the impact of the petition on Vilas County’s lakes and waters and then refer the petition for legal or additional committee evaluation. To argue that the LWCC does not have “jurisdiction” is clearly ludicrous. The LWCC is an advisory body. It is not a court or law enforcement agency. It does not or should not act in isolation from other committees and advisory bodies.
Second, the process used to consider the petition was egregious. If the news reports are correct, the petition was acted upon, reconsidered, then disappeared from the agenda causing subsequent discussion by the public before the LWCC to be severely curtailed. Draft minutes reflecting discussions were altered to remove all or parts of prior committee discussions regarding the petition. The agenda was altered such that active old business undergoing consideration was deleted.
Third, these process issues have the appearance of being orchestrated by the chair of the LWCC who herself, again if news reports are correct, self-reported a conflict of interest during the January 2017 LWCC meeting. When discussing the “new” 100 ft lakefront zoning minimum resulting from ACT 55, she stated “There are a lot of builders who will benefit from this. My son is one of those – he is trying to get back into building here.” Many or most would reasonably believe that this conflict of interest was enough for the chair to recuse herself from voting on the issue and certainly from trying to have the petition eliminated from further discussion by the Committee.
I believe that the citizens and taxpayers of a community have the right to expect that their well-considered and articulated concerns, when presented to their governmental representatives, will be appropriately addressed by those representatives using generally accepted standards of process. Clearly, that was not the case here.