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Feedlots, bluffs, zoning on Thursday agenda (05/12/2013)
By Sarah Squires

It's all on the table May 16: zoning ordinance revisions that could change the pace and tone of development and agriculture in Winona County for the coming years, plus permit applications for a building on a bluff slope, for a feedlot with more than 300 animal units, and for homes closer to feedlots than currently allowed.

Both the Winona County Planning Commission and Board of Adjustment have full agendas for that date, and are expected to address some of the most complex and controversial zoning regulations on the books today.

First, the Board of Adjustment will consider three variance requests during its meeting at 1 p.m. Darren Johnson would like a setback variance for a feedlot in Wiscoy Township of 330 feet from a residential dwelling, rather than the 1,000-foot setback required. Scott and Lori Palbicki will seek a variance to allow land-disturbing activities on slopes over 25 percent and to erect a shed on land between the toe and top of the bluff in Hillsdale Township. And Menno Bontrager, of St. Charles, would like to build a new dwelling 565 feet from a feedlot in Saratoga Township.

The Planning Commission will meet at 7 p.m., and is expected to continue discussions on potential zoning ordinance changes. Included on the list of possible changes are amendments that would lift the "nonconformity" label from most properties and allow those structures to be expanded. The commission will also address changes that would make it easier for agricultural operators to build a second home on the farm, and clarifications to language in the ordinance that currently states all land use activities not specifically listed are prohibited. Commissioners are also expected to set a date for a public hearing on the proposed ordinance modifications.

The Planning Commission will also hear several conditional use permit (CUP) requests during the session.

Rick Speltz, a Planning Commission member himself, is requesting a CUP to expand a feedlot to more than 300 animal units on his property in Utica Township. Bontrager, who will have requested a permit from the Board of Adjustments that afternoon for a new dwelling near a feedlot in Saratoga Township, will also ask the Planning Commission for a CUP to build the home on less than 40 acres. Additionally, Jennifer and Timothy Scharmer are expected to seek a permit to operate a dog kennel in Homer Township.

The Planning Commission holds public hearings for all CUP requests, then makes a recommendation to the Winona County Board, which ultimately casts the final vote for the CUPs. 


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