The Town of Verona took the first step toward opting out of Dane County zoning last week, but there are plenty of steps left before it could become official – including a public vote.
The Town Board unanimously voted Oct. 4 to send a letter of intent to other towns and county officials about the opt-out, which comes after a change in state law earlier this year allowed for the consideration. County zoning currently restricts much development, including most land divisions with fewer than 35 acres.
Town administrator/planner Amanda Arnold told the Press board members wanted to “be able to give the citizens a chance to be involved in this decision.”
“To not issue the letter of intent would be to … not have a public process about it,” she said. “A town can issue a letter of intent and then decide not to opt out.”
In February, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that allowed Dane County townships to set their own zoning standards, rather than have to work through the county’s as they do now.
The Dane County Towns Association pushed hard for the bill, complaining that county officials had kept many towns from growing as they needed to maintain a solid tax base.
County officials, though, opposed the change, stressing that county oversight provides consistent standards around the area.
Currently, the system has joint review of approval for rezoning between the towns and the county’s Zoning and Land Regulation board, which some towns see as overzealous in its decisions to preserve farmland.
Many towns around the county had said they were happy with their relationship with the county on zoning. Even Town of Verona officials did not have many specific complaints at the time.
But Town Chair Mark Geller said during the legislative discussions, it was a good idea to give towns the opportunity.
Arnold stressed there are many more steps town officials must take to actually opt out, including an “existing conditions” map and adopting a comprehensive plan – a process the town is currently undergoing, but with a timeline that may be too late, leading the town to readopt its 2006 plan.
“There are a lot of balls in the air,” she said.
Town residents will have the final say on the decision, Arnold said, with a vote at the annual town meeting next spring. She added that she hopes both the DCTA and the county can communicate their positions on the matter, and the reasons behind them, with residents before that vote is taken.
Submitted by Scott Girard/Unified Newspaper Group
10.13.16 Verona Press Publication