If you own property in an unincorporated area of Dane County, the county wants you to know that your zoning designation will soon look very different.

On Monday night, Majid Allan, a senior planner with the Dane County Planning and Development Department, explained the proposed, sweeping county zoning code changes to the Deerfield Town Board.

The presentation, followed by questions and answers, was one Allan and other county planners will take this winter and spring to the governing boards of all 33 towns located in Dane County.

Gone in the rewritten zoning code will be familiar, long-used letter-number designations like A-1 and A-2 for agriculture land, B-1 and B-2 for business land, and C-1 and C-2 for commercial land.

The proposed new code, which applies to most town land in Dane County (a few towns have opted out out of county zoning and adopted their own zoning codes) uses instead categories (see box) like Farmland Preservation (FP) and and Rural Residential (RR).

Allan said great care has been taken in drafting the new code, so that the kinds of land uses allowed in each new category are mostly “apples to apples” shifts from uses already allowed in corresponding existing categories.

Town of Deerfield farmer Jim Haak sits on a 7-member county subcommittee that has spent the past 18 months developing the proposed new code.

“It isn’t going to necessarily bestow on someone something they don’t already have, nor is it going to take anything away from anyone,” Allan said. In most cases, he said “your current land use will be allowed under the new zoning. By and large, very little is changing.”

Allan said the code is being updated largely because it’s currently unduly complicated.

“Instead of having a laundry list of all these uses, we have broad categories,” Allan said. “I think you’ll find the new categories a lot easier to work with.”

Allan said town landowners who want to see how their property is specifically proposed to be zoned under the new code can go to the Dane County Planning and Development Department’s website and type their address into an interactive portal. He said there’s also a lot of general information about the proposed changes on the website: https://plandev.countyofdane.com.

In his presentation Monday night, Allan walked through parts of the code where some things are proposed to change. For example, on some types of land, conditional use permits are proposed to now be required where they were not before, and vice-versa.

New and continuing allowed uses, in some cases only with a conditional use permit, include: incidental room rental (air bed and breakfasts), backyard chickens, beekeeping, storage of recreational equipment such as boats, small-scale farming (one animal per acre), mining, racetracks and pet boarding.

On rural mixed-use properties, for instance, boat and other recreational storage is proposed to now be allowed in existing agriculture buildings, without a conditional use permit. “I think that’s one change that will be well-received,” Allan said.

Proposed is a new allowance in some residential areas for beekeeping without a conditional use permit. “We had very good involvement by the area beekeeper’s association to ensure that people who want to do this are not causing any issues with neighbors,” Allan said.

Proposed to be allowed in some residential areas — with a conditional use permit — are small dwellings attached to a main home, i.e., an apartment for an elderly parent.

Incidental room rental is a new allowance in residential areas, that would not require a conditional use permit. It recognizes a growing trend toward air bed and breakfasts – property owners renting out rooms online to tourists.

And a new Hamlet zoning designation would apply to small clusters of homes and/or businesses in an unincorporated area. One of its proposed allowances, permits buildings to be set back as little as five feet from a road. It would also allow for very small lots – as little as 5,000 square feet.

Deerfield Town Board members said Monday night they might consider a Hamlet zoning designation for the unincorporated village of London, which lies in the town.

Among other proposed changes — taverns would now be allowed under General Commercial zoning, without a conditional use permit.

Allan said the purpose of Monday night’s visit was to begin to get input from Deerfield Town Board members on the draft text of the code and a corresponding draft county zoning map while the changes are still being deliberated by a subcommittee of the Dane County Board’s Zoning & Land Regulation (ZLR) Committee. He said it’s likely he’ll come back later this winter or spring to another Town Board meeting, as the board works through the proposed changes and questions arise.

Allan said the subcommittee is expected to wrap up its work early this summer, and then send the proposed new code to the ZLR Committee and finally to the Dane County Board for approval. Then, towns will have until mid-2019 to ratify the new code.

Allan said the hope is that by bringing the proposed changes to the towns now for review, and incorporating their input early enough in the process, that their final ratification will be little more than a rubber stamp.

Allan said he is open to questions from rural property owners. He can be reached at allan@co.dane.wi.us or (608) 267-2536.

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