DNR violates local zoning ordinance

Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 12, 2023

By M.D. Kittle 

MADISON — The regulatory shoe is on the other foot for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, served with notice on that it has violated Winnebago County zoning code. 

It appears the agency failed to secure conditional use and zoning permits before starting construction on a maintenance garage (cold storage building) in the county. 

“This is to notify you that the above referenced property is in violation of the Winnebago County ordinance as indicated,” wrote Daniel Lefebvre, Winnebago County’s assistant zoning administrator a notice of violation, obtained by Empower Wisconsin. 

“Due to the potential complexity of the situation, please contact this office immediately to discuss measures to remedy the violation. Failure to respond to this notice on or before February 1st, 2023, will result in the issuance of a municipal citation for the alleged violation(s),” the notice warns. 

It appears the DNR initially applied for the permits but later decided they were unnecessary. The state advised that the agency had already started construction on the building without obtaining the permits, according to sources. 

The DNR could face up to $200 for each day the violation exists or continues, according to local ordinance. 

“Upon conviction for this violation, you may be required to pay a forfeiture of not less than $10.00 nor more than $200.00 for each separate offense, plus prosecution costs, in addition to obtaining all require permits (if applicable),” the notice advises. 

The state agency did not immediately respond to Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment.

“The public expects us to treat everyone the same. Special treatment, good ole boy clubs, and back room deals are not appropriate,” said Winnebago County Executive Assistant Ethan Hollenberger. “Government regulations can be onerous. It would not be right to enforce zoning rules differently. The county went to the city of Oshkosh for 980 sexual predator housing approval. We went through the county process for a boat launch improvement. If our rules are good enough for the taxpayers, they are certainly good enough for the DNR.”

“Typically, we seek compliance instead of citations. We expect the same result here.”

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