The Town of Westport has opted to retain zoning authority within the township, following its declination of Dane County’s newly-revised zoning ordinance.
Town Administrator Tom Wilson said it an easy decision.
“Dane County adopted a comprehensive revision to their zoning ordinance,” Wilson said. “They had asked whether we wanted to be included and the board said, ‘No, we don’t want anything to do with this. We’ve got our own zoning ordinance, and that’s alright.’”
Two years ago, the town withdrew from coverage of the Dane County Comprehensive Plan and adopted its own zoning ordinance. Accepting the county’s new revision would undo that action.
“It’s a very nice thing they’ve done for the rest of the towns,” Wilson said. “But we have withdrawn. We don’t wish to come back in, and we are specifically declining to accept (the county’s revised zoning ordinance).”
At its last meeting, the town board discussed how to proceed with declining the new ordinance.
Mark Hazelbaker, an attorney who performs work on behalf of several communities in the area, suggested that the town write a letter to Dane County executives clearing stating their intentions.
“He thought that it might not be a bad idea,” Wilson said. “He thought that there might be some concern under the statute that, if we don’t do anything, it could be seen as potentially accepting (the county’s ordinance).”
However, board members questioned the attorney’s judgement.
“It could be seen as negative at the county level,” Wilson pointed out. “And do we really want to be seen as rubbing our withdrawal in their face?”
Town Board Supervisor Ken Sipsma agreed, noting the letter’s potential for misinterpretation.
“We don’t know whether we’d be getting ourselves in trouble or not,” Sipsma said. “And I’m not favorable to taking action on this because I don’t have a high degree of confidence in the rationale for doing it and how the rationale was developed.”
Wilson, who also serves as the town’s attorney, stated that written refusal was not required under the state statute and might even be seen as redundant in the eyes of county officials.
According to the law, the ordinance would need to be adopted by the town board to take effect.
Any town refusing to adopt the county’s ordinance would then be left to regulate its own zoning, by default.
“I don’t think (a letter) is necessary,” Wilson said. “They already know that we’re not going to approve the ordinance…You got your own zoning, and all those things that go with it. So to take the step of saying no – is it something you can do? Yes. Is it necessary under the code? No.”
He recommended that the board delay taking action until they knew what other towns are doing.
Board members ultimately decided to postpone the discussion, and revisit it at a later date.