NR 115 – The Document

28 May

An untitled document was recently released by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources which appears to be the “draft” of the contentious and elusive updated NR 115 (Shoreland Protection Rules).  Below are its contents:

Intent of Each Section

Purpose– has not changed since the adoption of the original code.  It is the protection of habitat, water quality, and natural scenic beauty per ss 281.

Applicability– has not changed.  The desire is to have shoreland zoning apply everywhere it has in since the inception of the program in 1968.  The recognized problem is when there are multiple annexations under multiple codes having different processes and standards.  There has not been a solution proposed that meets both administrative and environmental standards.  The current system, while imperfect is functioning and understood by those implementing it so without a specific change to meet the goals it should be left alone.

Definitions– Additions to clarify some problematic areas from the past and additions to accommodate the impervious surface/mitigation concept have been inserted.

Existing development pattern
Impervious surface
Building envelope
Access & Viewing corridor
Routine maintenance

Shoreland Zoning Districts (115.05(1)) has not been changed.

Shoreland Wetland Zoning (115.05(2)) has no changes in the standards or procedures for re-zoning of wetlands.  New language to reflect that all counties have adopted at least the first wetland map and now subsequent re-mapping is occurring to increase accuracy therefore counties must adopt more recent and more accurate maps.  No additional county workload and reduced adoption procedures/costs compared to current procedures/costs.

Shoreland Zoning (115.05(3)) has been re-named to statewide minimum zoning standards for shorelands since that is what this has always been.

  • Minimum Lot Sizes There are no significant changes to this area.  It is still the 10,000/20,000 size with 65/100 feet of frontage.  We did add the substandard lot section to get current practices into law and provide much needed consistency across the state.
  • Minimum Setbacks  No change from the minimum 75 feet from the OHWM.  All boathouses that are allowed under county preference must be located in the access and viewing corridor.  Included exception for SS 59.692 structures interpreting this to be an aggregate 200 square-feet.
  • Shoreland Vegetation and Buffers proposed limiting owners with more than to no more than 200 feet of viewing and access (restricts owners with more than 660 feet of frontage).  Changed language for dead/dying/diseased removal still allowing the removal but requiring replacement in the same area.  The model will contain language suggesting a plan be required in the permit so this becomes enforceable however the State minimum does not require a specific plan rather the same system of permitting that already exists in all counties.
  • Impervious Surfaces Was simplified to simply require a statewide minimum of 15%-30% requires mitigation and more than 30% requires relief.  It is the intent of this section and reflected in the non-conforming language that all properties, as the date of this rule, will get what they have for impervious surfaces however the burden of proof is on the project proponent to show the surfaces existed prior to the rule.  In all cases where the impervious surfaces exceed 15% mitigation shall be required when alterations are proposed.  The specific mitigation will be contained in the model and local ordinances however in all cases if a landowner wishes to restore the first 35-feet it will meet the state minimum.
  • Height Requirements are proposed in the first 75-feet from the OHWM because we are now proposing to allow wreck and re-build within the same footprints which will allow the extension of non-conforming structures however with mitigation and protection of the height the impacts are anticipated to be less than the current systems  We do not propose requiring these restrictions beyond the critical first 75 feet even though the vast majority of counties already regulate this.
  • Non-conforming uses are proposed to eliminate the 50% rule and allow unlimited maintenance/repair with potential expansion away from the water through a permit.  Under no circumstances, except with relief, may a county allow wreck and re-build within 35 feet of the OHWM.  Beyond that we will encourage counties to use the impervious surface regulation along with mitigation measures.  Inside of 35 feet we will write a suggested special exception for certain waterbodies where this is appropriate in our model.  Newly created non-conforming structures (impervious surface) are proposed to be regulated using mitigation measures, no additional impervious surfaces, and appropriate mitigation measures.

Land Division Review (115.05(4)) we proposed to add a provision which requires notification of proposed divisions in the shoreland zone to assure all public access requirements are met.

Establishment of Sanitary regulations (115.05(5)) We propose no changes however we need to assure that the references are still the right numbers.

Adoption of Administration and Enforcement (115.05(6)) Allows two years for adoption of new ordinance for each county.  DNR will issue a certificate of compliance with a presumptive approval after 30 days.

Department Duties No significant changes

Mitigation-is a new section.  The intent is to replace the environmental losses that have occurred, or are proposed to occur in proportion to the overall project size.  For ease of use, protection/restoration of the 35 foot buffer will satisfy for the majority of projects.


See the documents for yourself:

(click on page for full version)

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources NR 115 (1)

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources NR 115 (page 1)

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources NR 115 (page 2)

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources NR 115 (page 2)


2 Responses to “NR 115 – The Document”

  1. DR "V" May 29, 2009 at 6:12 am #

    Even with the two year adoption period it’s still unclear what Oneida County’s position will be. The most troubling aspect of this is the obtuse wording of the non-conforming use section. What can actually occur with non-conforming structures – can they be maintained, rebuilt after natural disaster and fire, vertically expanded? Nobody will really know until Oneida county revises their ordinance. It might be a good time to get any work done now – and to move forward with any belated renovation plans.

    • The Provost June 1, 2009 at 10:54 pm #

      DR “V” – All interesting points that you make and I agree that on this draft the wording is rather obtuse and obscure. There’s a bit of irony, though, in the hullabaloo about the Rules as if we keep up this drought, the shores may just recede so far inward that non-conforming structures will be moot points. Just look at a lot of the old boat houses built over Blue Lake… right now they’re just barely even touching the water. I think it’s just a matter of time before we see construction moving structures closer to the water’s edge (as allowable under zoning), not maintaining / rebuilding current questionable structures.

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