A review of the county’s zoning ordinance by a consulting firm is moving along.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors, Zoning Administrator Tony Phillips updated the Board on the progress of work by Yaggy Colby Associates of Delafield, Wis., a firm hired by the county in January to revise and update the county’s zoning ordinance.
Phillips outlined the status of eight items tasked to Yaggy Colby by the county.
He said the first, the review of the county’s comprehensive plan and the recommendation of changes to the zoning ordinance to reconcile differences, is in process.
Yaggy Colby has completed a preliminary review of both, without identifying any direct conflicts between the two.
He said the review of the current ordinance to correct and expand definitions is under way, but the firm has not yet reviewed it to identify weaknesses, inconsistencies or errors.
“They have gone through the glossary, removed non-used terms, improved definitions and identified new terms to add to the glossary,” said Phillips, adding this step will continue until the update is completed to ensure any additions to the ordinance are covered with the glossary.
Phillips said the consultants have identified a number of modifications that need to be made in the ordinance to embrace the county’s increased focus on tourism.
These include, but are not limited to: adding a new commercial district, modifying district uses, modifying the conditional-use chart, exploring administrative permits and expanding the water resource protection district.
He said Yaggy Colby has not yet reviewed each zoning district and allowed principle uses within, or done anything to modify the ordinance to specifically regulate frac-sand mining.

They have made some headway in correcting the procedure on conditional-use permits and moving it to the Board of Adjustment’s responsibility. 
Finally, the firm is working with and guiding the Planning and Zoning Commission to create policy.

Supervisor Dennis Karlsbroten next expressed some concerns about the permitting process.
“As it stands, I don’t really understand what we need a conditional-use permit for … You’d almost have to have one for a farm sale,” said Karlsbroten.
“No,” responded Phillips.
“How is it clarified?” asked Karlsbroten.
“The conditional-use chart. If it falls under one of those categories, it is up to the zoning administrator (to enforce it),” said Phillips.
Karlsbroten next said people have approached him about whether or not community picnics, such as those thrown by area churches each summer, need to have a permit.
“They need to be asking me instead of you,” replied Phillips.
Karlsbroten added, “I’d hate to see our zoning ordinances start stymieing things and complicating them.”
When Supervisor Dean Thompson asked if the cost of the fee for conditional-use permits is being reviewed by Yaggy Colby, Phillips said the fee schedule is set by the Board of Supervisors as a resolution.
When Supervisor Floyd Ashbacher asked Phillips how Winneshiek County’s fees compare to other counties, Phillips said Winneshiek County charges less in most cases.
“Most counties use a mathematical formula (to set their fees). Some are quite spendy,” he said.
When Thompson asked if any counties forgive the permit fee for certain nonprofit events, Phillips said there are none that he is aware of.
Karlsbroten also raised concerns about the legality of Highlandville Schoolhouse dances being held without a permit.
“I do not know when they are or where they are,” said Phillips.
“These are events these people have over and over,” added Thompson.
“Nobody expects you to know zoning,” said Phillips.
“If they ask you a (zoning) question, you should be referring them to me,” he concluded.

What’s next?
To date, the county has paid Yaggy Colby $4,000 for its review. The original resolution was to hire the firm for a fee not to exceed $27,000.
Phillips has been receiving status updates from Yaggy Colby via conference call twice a month.
He said the goal is to complete the ordinance update by the end of the year.