At their Aug. 9 regular board meeting, the Town of Sand Lake board of trustees voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance that is meant to address the lack of zoning in the town – which is one of just a handful that doesn’t follow Burnett County’s comprehensive zoning rules and review process. 

The Town of Sand Lake was in the news recently when several ‘surprise’ announcements were revealed about proposed or pending campgrounds in the town, with several of the neighbors not knowing about the proposals that were just a few dozen yards from their homes until quite recently, one of which was already under construction. 

While the town adopted a comprehensive plan in 2010, they did not adopt comprehensive zoning, and as such, there was no requirement for any such notifications on any types of construction, as long as it was not in areas deemed ‘shoreland’ or within 1,000-feet of a water body, or if it required a new driveway or septic system approval.

The July campground proposal(s) led to a flurry of meetings and discussions by residents and elected trustees, who addressed those concerns when the town board met on Monday, Aug. 9 in regular session.

The board discussed and later unanimously approved an interim zoning ordinance meant to address some of the campground concerns, at least until the town can consider adopting full county zoning, which may take as long as two years.

The interim ordinance was crafted using information from the Wisconsin Towns Association (WTA), which provided the template for the ordinance, according to Town Chair Edward Weber.  

“Citizens of Sand Lake have become very concerned about the number of campgrounds being developed in our town,” Weber stated. “A group was pushing to adopt Burnett County zoning, but that could take up to two years. WTA advised me that interim zoning could stop any new development for up to two years.” 

Weber cited Wisconsin State Statute 62.23(7)(da) as the impetus for the interim measure, which will allow the town to reestablish their Planning Committee, and review zoning laws and the impact(s) of such a change as they offer up a recommendation to the full town board. 

“We will be appointing a committee to update our 2010 comprehensive plan. Then we will update the maps for zoning. A referendum on county zoning could be on the April ballot,” Chairman Weber stated, noting that they will get assistance form the WTA and from other planning groups. 

 “The West Central Regional Planning commission will hopefully assist our Planning Committee on the Comprehensive Plans update,” Weber added.

The interim zoning ordinance passage does have an intended effect on some of the projects in question, according to Chairman Weber.

“Existing projects would need to have been approved by the State prior to August 9, 2021,” he confirmed. “Any new projects would need to be approved by the Town and the State before they can be started.” 

It is unclear if the ordinance will draw any legal challenges, but if so, the ordinance does cite ‘preserving the status quo,” and how it allows the Town to engage in procedural review of the proposed zoning ordinance.

The ordinance also mentioned the need to study the “… possible impacts (the ordinance) may have on health, safety and general welfare of the residents of the Town, including impacts on air quality, water quality, public infrastructure, property values and the local economy.” 

The next regular meeting of the Town of Sand Lake board is set for Monday, Sept. 13, where the next steps along the line toward the possible adoption of county zoning will be addressed, including Planning Committee make-up and the like.