The Lake County Commission passed its lengthy zoning ordinance update on Tuesday. Already, county residents are circulating petitions to put the revisions to a vote. An eager reader says my friend and Madison resident Paul Nordaune just came by asking for signatures.
Nordaune and fellow petitioneers (expect a strong Winfred contingent) need to collect and submit 457 registered voter signatures (that's 5% of the total counted at general election last month) within 20 days of the ordinance's publication to put the matter to a public vote.
Now I generally say "Yahoo, democracy!" to referral drives. However, let me put this zoning ordinance into perspective. I sit on the new Lake County Water Quality Committee. We spent some of our meeting time reviewing the zoning ordinance, discussing impacts on water issues, and making some style and form recommendations (this grammar teacher loves that stuff). In a series of hour-long discussions over maybe six meetings, we barely got through the first fifth of the ordinances, and that was just the definitions.
The zoning ordinance is a big, complicated piece of local legislation. It has to be, to anticipate all possible legal challenges and complications that new development and cranky lawyers could raise. It does not lend itself easily to popular discussion. Every voter will be able to identify one small provision or another that he or she finds objectionable... and the only option at the ballot box will be to discard the whole thing.
But so be it. I will not stand in the way of neighbors calling for participation in the local political process. I'm betting my neighbors will almost certainly reject the zoning ordinance changes. The county commission will then have to get input, find out which provisions torqued off the most voters, and then write up a new version that addresses enough of those issues to pass muster with the public.
And in the process, we'll have learned a lot more about our local zoning rules. Keep on circulating, Paul!
Say here's a thought: if the petitioneers get the job done quickly enough, could Lake County save some tax dollars by scheduling the election on February 1, the same day as the school district's bond election for the new gym and high school renovations? And if they did, could coupling the two votes impact the turnout for the school election?
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