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EDITORIAL: Madison lawmakers need to stay away from local government

By Ben Rodgers

Lawmakers in Madison did it again, insisting they know what’s best for everyone else.

This time, 2017 Wisconsin Act 67 is affecting regulations on zoning for communities across the state.

Units of local government are now required to grant a conditional use permit “if an applicant meets, or agrees to meet, all of the requirements and conditions specified in the relevant ordinance or imposed by the relevant zoning board.”

A conditional use permit may be required for a proposed development to allow the use under certain conditions.

This is far from the most exciting thing to write about, but be assured, this will impact our communities, if it hasn’t already.

Local units of government see this change as a limit they have on the discretion in being able to deny a conditional use permit. Therefore, these governments are or have enacted changes to the zoning codes to comply with state law.

Locally, conditional use permits pertain to mini-warehousing or self-storage units.

Right now you are probably asking why you should care? Fair question.

You should care because without being able to deny a conditional use permit these storage units could be erected anywhere they are allowed as a conditional use, which, in some cases, wouldn’t gel with the aesthetic feel of a development.

Everywhere outside of Green Bay proper is growing in Brown County.

Have you looked at trying to buy a house in Howard or Suamico? What about Hobart? Good luck in land-locked Ashwaubenon with property being snatched up at high rates for Packers party houses.

With residential growth comes new commercial developments and industrial developments to meet the needs of a growing population. This change is state law means a developer could be granted a permit to construct storage units in a retail area that is better suited for commercial development.

Storage units might be better suited for more rural areas, where the concern of lowering property values isn’t as high.

Local governments would not be able to outright deny a permit with mini-warehousing being a conditional use in a zoning district if an applicant could demonstrate being able to meet the permit conditions.

These units generate little in tax revenue and have been referred to by some elected officials as eyesores.

However, a need for these developments does exist. We as a people continue to acquire more stuff, therefore we need more space to put it all.

There’s no doubt storage units are needed, but the task of forcing local governments to have to change zoning regulations to keep them out is a waste of time and energy nobody needs.

All this change in state law does is add extra layers to local governments in order to adhere to strategic plans moving forward.

Lawmakers in Madison need to understand that what’s right for some communities isn’t right for all of them, especially when it comes to zoning.

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