After years of conflict over portions of the Winona County zoning ordinance, the Planning Commission will begin to discuss the first proposed major change to the land use regulations, one that proponents say will restore property rights to those whose property is labeled “nonconforming” under the ordinance. Opponents say it would weaken bluff protection measures by allowing homes near the bluff’s edge to be expanded.
The ordinance amendment, proposed by Commissioner Steve Jacob, would lift the “nonconforming” label from thousands of homes and feedlots throughout the county that complied with the county’s land use rules when they were built, but do not conform to the current zoning ordinance. It would expand the “Rural Heritage” district to all structures that were legally established prior to March 15, 2011, when the new zoning ordinance took effect. Under the current ordinance language, those structures would not be allowed to expand, but under the proposed amendment, they would be allowed to expand or add an accessory structure within 300 feet of the existing home or feedlot. Any expansion would have to comply with setbacks outlined in the 1970 version of the ordinance, as well as any state or federal setback requirements. The new bluff and steep-slope setbacks would not apply to the 300-foot radius expansion area around the structure.
The Planning Commission is expected to discuss the proposed amendment during its meeting on July 18, at 7 p.m., at the Government Center on Main Street. A public hearing will be held in the coming weeks, after which the commission will make a recommendation to the County Board on the proposed zoning changes.