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Monday, December 8, 2008

Neighbors, Neighbors: Zoning Kerfuffle on Lake Madison

Can't we all just get along? Not if you're blocking my view....

As if the county commission doesn't have enough to do gently asking that the Stip brothers compensate us for breaking the law and damaging public roads, they've got neighbors over on the swanky side of the county all cranky with each other as well. I'll let an eager reader explain the situation:

Matt and Cindy Larson, owners of Real Estate Retrievers of Madison, have filed a request for a variance to zoning regulations on a piece of property they are developing in the middle of 459th Avenue on the north shore of Lake Madison. The Larsons have begun construction on a three story home that will block the lake view of their neighbors because they're building it almost at the shore front. There is a zoning regulation since 2006 that says in Section 3(a), "Where adjoining lots are developed with a setback greater than twenty-five (25) feet, the required setback shall be the average of the setback of the adjoining lots." Rod Pierson and Todd Hauck's homes, which are adjoining lots, are set back much further than what the Larsons have poured their foundation for.

The other issue being questioned is Zoning Director, Deb Reinicke's opinion that Minimum Zoning Lot Width of any lake lot is 75-feet. In her opinion, that means minimum lake frontage, but others feel the entire lot width must be no less than 75-feet from front to back. The Larsons meet the 75-feet width at the frontage, but are only 32-feet wide at the backside, with a pie-shaped replatted lot. The Lake Park Districts 1 and 2 Schedule of Regulations simply says, "Minimum Lot Width" and section 3(c) says, "Lot width is the distance between side lot lines measured at the rear of the required front yard on a line parallel with a line tangent to the road right of way line." Very ambiguous and left open to whoever wants to interpret it to their liking.

This entire issue goes back to April 2006 when Lakeview Township agreed to "vacate" a portion of 459th Avenue that leads to Lake Madison in order to save Henry Hauck's evergreens which were deemed to be a few inches into the 66-foot ROW and scheduled for removal. The township vacated their responsiblity for any liability, but agreed to keep the road open and continue to maintain it. Once the road was vacated, ownership of the 66-feet reverted to the adjoining land owners, which were Todd Hauck, Matt and Cindy Larson, Steve and Liz Hofer, Henry Hauck and Rod and Cheryl Goeman.

When Larsons sold their lakefront home to Rod Pierson this year, they replatted a lot that allowed them to take advantage of the extra 33-feet of lake frontage they were given by the township's vacation order. That's why the home is being built in the middle of the road and could be a severe injury risk if someone drives down that road in the fog or snow, or perhaps a drunk person collides with their new home.

Lakeview Township was quite clear in their intentions to simply vacate their legal responsibilities to that portion of the road and they paid special attention to the promise they would continue to maintain that vacated portion as they had before, and that the road would be used for public access to the lake for fishing as it had been for decades.

Zoning Variance Hearing along with a "joint" special meeting of the Lake County Commission will be held at 8:30, Wednesday, December 10th at the County Commission Room according to the legal public notice in [the] Dec 3rd Madison Daily Leader. [Madville Times special correspondent, 2008.12.04].

I'm a property rights guy: if folks own land fair and square, they should be able to do as they see fit with it. But the land in question, the vacated right of way, used to be subject to public control. If my correspondent is correct, Lakeview Township ceded control of this roadway for some specific purposes, and expanding room for housebuilding was not one of them.

My biggest concern: public access to the lake. I haven't done a formal study (someone care to break out Google Earth and measure shoreline?), but I suspect Lake Madison already has a much lower percentage of publicly accessible shoreline than lovely Lake Herman. Cutting off public access to even one more small strip of Lake Madison shoreline deserves serious scrutiny... and that's what Wednesday morning's zoning meeting is for.

One more question: how do people get their foundations poured before they have their zoning variances in hand?


  1. "Build First, Ask Questions Later" has long been the motto in Lake County for zoning violations. Ever see Commissioners force anyone tear out a wall or move a foundation because it broke the zoning codes?

  2. Who is the "eager reader" supplying this information?

  3. Lake coutny has always been laisse faire when comes to building things. I watched a man cut holes in a settling pond holding water from a former cattle feedlot. The water ran into Round Lake. I also watched this same man burn of slew and then back fill in the crick bed. Now that has become a Golf Course, a Camp Ground, and is still trying to be developed into some kind of trailer park or something that looks pretty atrocious. The same land owner is trying to back fill another slough so he can sell a few more lots. No one seems to care at the county.
    Do what you want we don't care if it increases the tax revenue then by all means do it....that seems to be the counties motto when it comes to zonning.

  4. I have no real opinion, either pro or con, on the subject. I was just wondering if you ever had an English/spelling teacher ----- or did you even take those courses. At least proofread what you write. That one action would lend more credibility to your opinion and intelligence.

  5. I have nine years experience teaching HS English. Yes, e.c. should among other things, put a z on the end of laissez faire.

    But e.c.'s point still stands and merits thought: are we letting development get out of hand? Are we putting tax revenue above fair enforcement of our rules?

  6. It looks like Matt and Cindy Larson carved a beautiful apple into two jagged halves, one half that is about 70% of the original apple and a new half that is a rough-cut 30% of the original apple.

    When people slice off a piece of their original property, intending to build on that property without doing their homework regarding current zoning laws and existing covenants, they deserve to be denied. After all, the new tiny lot was unbuildable to begin with by all current laws, covenants and standards. The County should not bail them out for their stubborness and arrogance.

    If you haven't driven out there, take five minutes to drive south on 459th Avenue (half-mile east of Johnson's Point Road) toward the lake, but make sure you get stopped before you drive into the lake and Larson's basement foundation. That would be one heck of a fall!

    This is about public safety as much as violating zoning regulations and existing covenants.

  7. That has to be the worst place to build a house I've ever seen! It is right in the middle of the road. Who would even give them a permit to build there? Someone will get hurt or killed if a car or truck ever hits the house. It will happen someday.


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