Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Outagamie County Regional Airport (KATW) overlay action put on hold. Appleton, Wisconsin,

In the interest of being good neighbors, the Outagamie County Board voted Tuesday night to send the controversial extension of an airport overlay zoning into Winnebago County back to committee.

After nearly two hours of debate, which included a lobbying effort by Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, Outagamie supervisors voted 21-13 to send the measure back to the Agriculture, Extension Education, Zoning and Land Conservation Committee.

Noting that Winnebago County avoided placing an airport overlay zone on an established residential neighborhood immediately north of Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh years ago, Harris suggested the Outagamie overlay ordinance be crafted to leave Stroebe Island in the Town of Menasha out of the restrictive overlay zone within three miles from the end of a runway at Outagamie County Regional Airport in Greenville.

Supv. Jim Duncan led the support for additional review. "Why not do this like good neighbors? Let's send it back and do a joint committee," he said.

Several supervisors suggested that the measure could be revisited and be brought back within 30 or 45 days. Others were not sure and thought it might be doomed.

"I don't think this is dead if it goes back," said Supv. Al Schmidt, who said he supports the need for the overlay zoning in Winnebago County to protest the airport. "I think it would be better to hold this for 30 days so this body can do its homework and answer a few questions."

When Harris suggested that the three-mile zoning district be trimmed by three-tenths of a mile to exclude Stroebe Island, numerous visitors in the gallery clapped in support. "That would save you probably a lawsuit and a lot of wasted time and money," Harris said.

Laurel Eihusen, a Stroebe Island resident, railed against the nonconforming label that would be placed on properties like his that was less than an acre and reducing their value. "It looks like eminent domain," he said. "You can't convince me that it's not a taking of value.

"There are better ways to grandfather these properties and provide for the common good," he said.

Afterward, Eihusen was pleased. "It makes a lot of sense. Obviously they're beginning to listen a little bit," he said. "We'll see how this all plays out. I'm happy that there's a lot of reasonable people here."

The ordinance, which has been in place in Outagamie County since 1981 but never implemented south of the county-owned airport due to opposition, was amended recently in hopes of mollifying opposition.

The amended ordinance that had been poised to go into effect on March 1 residents in either county within the overlay zoning districts will have three options to change or replace nonconforming structures: obtain an airport zoning permit (free) by signing an avigation easement; apply for a special exception permit ($400 fee) from the county's Zoning Committee; or, apply for a variance ($425 fee) from the county's Board of Adjustment. There was a suggestion that the fee be waived for the special exception permit as well.

Supv. Wayne Defferding, who chaired a special committee that met 19 times over 18 months to fashion the amended ordinance, said care was taken to ensure that residents in the overlay districts can rebuild or add on "within reason" if their homes were destroyed.

Defferding said Winnebago residents should not have been surprised by the ordinance because the panel included participation by officials from the Winnebago towns of Menasha and Clayton as well as Outagamie towns of Greenville and Grand Chute. He expressed concern that if sent back "it will die because of everybody working their little exception into the ordinance."

"This is a delaying tactic," said Supv. Kathy Groat. "We need FAA money. We are responsible to our taxpayers in Outagamie County."

Town of Menasha resident Kris Koeppe called the ordinance "regulation without representation.

"It certainly would be advantageous for Outagamie County to reach across county line to get a more equitable way to do this," Koeppe said.

"We want to be good neighbors and we want to make this right," said Supv. Debra Vander Heiden, who sits on the zoning committee. "If it took us 20 years to get this far, I don't think an additional three months is going to hurt."

Airport overlay zoning ordinance

Outagamie County, which owns and operates Outagamie County Regional Airport in Greenville, implemented an ordinance — called airport overlay zoning — in 1981. The ordinance is designed to improve safety for the public and aircraft by controlling high-density development, regulating the height of buildings and how they're lit, and limiting stormwater ponds within runway corridors.

While airport corridor restrictions have been in place for 30 years, for the first time Outagamie County is proposing to extend them into the Winnebago County towns of Clayton and Menasha. The county is legally entitled, as the airport's owner, to extend its zoning authority in the corridors, even into other counties.

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