To the Editor:

After months of delay and conflicting guidance, the Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Committee yesterday (March 9) refused to consider a petition signed by seven town boards and 27 lake associations and committees calling for the return of local control of shoreland zoning and restoration of the county’s lake classification system.

The petition requests that the Vilas County Board of Supervisors “pass a resolution in support of returning local control over shoreland zoning to our counties and townships and restoring our historic lake classification system as it existed before the passage of Act 55 in July of 2015 as the foundation of county shoreland zoning.”

It’s hard to believe that our elected representatives would refuse to even hear a petition from elected town boards and associations representing hundreds of their constituents.

We’re not use to seeing such high-handed disrespect of citizens and taxpayers in this county. First we got the runaround, then they tried to slam the door. They may refuse to send our petition to the full board, but we will continue to make our voices heard. We know that many supervisors are on the side of the lakes, and in the end, we hope they will stand up for our lakes and local control.”

Town boards signing the petition include Boulder Junction, Lac du Flambeau, Manitowish Waters, Plum Lake, St. Germain, Washington and Winchester. Other petitioners include 26 individual lake associations and committees and the Vilas County Lakes and Rivers Association. Waterfront property owners pay 77 percent of the county tax base. Healthy lakes and streams are the foundation of the county’s critical tourism industry.

Language inserted into Act 55, the state budget, took control of shoreland zoning from local governments and imposed one-size-fits-all state zoning standards.

Contrary to a memo to LWC committee chair Kim Simac requested from Corporation Counsel John Albert, it is fully within the purpose, authority and responsibility of the LWC to hold a hearing and make a recommendation to the County Board on an issue that impacts one of its primary responsibilities – the need to protect Vilas County’s surface waters, groundwater and wetlands. It is not unlawful or legally flawed for a County Board to pass a resolution stating its position on an issue. A resolution containing specific findings of how the County is harmed by Act 55 would help the legislature understand the changes needed to serve Vilas County’s interests, thus providing a service to both Vilas County residents and the legislature.

John Richter
President of the Plum Lake Association