Zoning ordinance work starts this week

The Brown County Board of Zoning Appeals has approved the county’s fourth-ever private recreational development — though there is no definition for what that zoning designation really means.

As the county official who has to provide the public daily guidance on how to follow the county’s zoning ordinance, Plan Commission Director Ann Ritzman said she is eager for work on a new ordinance to begin.

“It can’t be started soon enough for me,” she said. “Can’t be completed soon enough for me either.”

Work on that large project will start at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 19, during the Brown County Area Plan Commission’s public work session in the second-floor Salmon Room at the County Office Building.

Each of the seven members of the board has agreed to bring a list of 10 areas in the zoning ordinance that they think need to be worked on.

Meanwhile, at their June 29 meeting, the BZA approved a new PRD for a property that had previously been a tourist home.

Owner Brian Fenneman said he and his wife, Darla, want to use the late-19th century barn as a wedding venue. The tourist home will be where the wedding party could prepare and stay overnight.

The Fennemans have completed extensive work on the barn. They said they were told by a previous employee of the county plan commission that they could use the property for weddings and corporate retreats without any change to the designation.

The current zoning ordinance leaves some areas unclear, Ritzman said in a later interview.

Typically, a private recreational development is a business such as a country club or golf course. It allows large receptions and events such as weddings, she said. It also might have overnight accommodations.

The other three approved PRDs in Brown County are Rawhide Ranch, a Western-themed lodging and activity center; Camp Buckwood, a male-only resort; and a new wedding venue on Kent Road.

With no definition to go on for a Brown County private recreational development, Ritzman said she has looked at how PRDs are defined in other cities and towns and in planning standards publications.

There is also ambiguity in the tourist home part of the zoning ordinance. Arguments could be made to allow for daytime guests at a tourist home in excess of the overnight guest limit, she said. Yet, the strictest reading could limit the total number of people on the property to those approved to stay there overnight.

If the county commissioners adopt a new zoning ordinance, they could go beyond clarifying what a Brown County PRD should look like, Ritzman said. They could also create a more limited exception that would apply to venues specifically designated for gatherings such as weddings.

“We really need to pin it down,” Ritzman said.