VILAS COUNTY - Earlier this month, legislators put a proposal into the state budget that would take away a county's ability to make its own shoreline zoning regulations. Here in the Northwoods, two counties have come out against that proposal.
If the state budget went through as it's written right now, individual counties and lake associations could lose their power to set zoning regulations. That's a big issue for many in the Northwoods. Vilas County alone has 1,300 lakes. The proposal has caused great concerns.
"The concern was that the proposal had the potential for doing great damage to the environment, had the potential for causing a severe problem as far as assessment procedures, and generally was opposed by the citizens-the residents-of this county," said Chuck Hayes, a Vilas County supervisor.
Vilas and Oneida counties both held board meetings last week. Both counties voted to ask for removal of zoning changes from the budget. They argue the issue of shoreline zoning was never given any time to be discussed.
"At the very least, I think the public should have had a chance to weigh in on this issue that affects the environment," said Hayes. "The counties, the municipalities and individual residents, their opinion wasn't sought on this. It was simply put in."
County officials and lake associations argue that one of the biggest issues facing their counties is the harm that could be done by reducing building restrictions.
"If the building is extended vertically, there's no way of knowing that the existing septic system is adequate, because there's no inspection and no permit needed," said Hayes. "So there's all sorts of ways that by eliminating permits - inspection approval regulations - at the county or town level, that more damage can be done to the environment."
Some people fear the proposal could hurt water quality, which they think could negatively affect tourism in those counties.
Supporters of the proposal say that this change would give land owners more freedom to do things with their lakefront property.
Today is the last day of the state's fiscal year. That means the new budget should be in place, but legislatures have pushed off votes, and no new dates are set.