Do farmette maneuvers smell of manure?

Do farmette maneuvers smell of manure?

By By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

County zoning officials continue to push for Rural Farmette (RF) zoning, while the Winnebago County Farm Bureau and county townships maintain their staunch position against it.

The proposal is for five-acre tracts to be scattered about the county on unsuitable farmland.

Currently, the law allows for one house per 40 acres in rural areas. The zoning would change that to eight houses per 40 acres.

The county’s angle

The county has worked on the zoning proposal for three years. Zoning Officer Corby Schmidt said that at the Zoning Committee meeting Dec. 6, the committee will, for the last time, review the issue. Then, the committee will send the proposal to the county board for a vote.

Schmidt has stated the zoning change would be an asset to the county. “The rules they have in place right now are not written in current fashion to preserve farmland, which is one of the county board goals,” he remarked. “The current rules also have an indefinite end point to them.”

In a letter dated Nov. 20 listed in last week’s “Letters to the Editor,” Zoning Chairwoman Sue McDonald (R-1) states that some people think the county should adapt a “no growth or zero tolerance to growth” in rural areas.

But McDonald says she believes there is a “delicate balancing act between preservation and property rights.” She states she has concluded the proposal is a good idea after acquiring insight from being involved in the zoning process for years.

“Obviously, the buyers are purchasing these parcels with the intention of building their homes and raising their families. Should the County government be so restrictive that we deny these people their right to quiet enjoyment on their property, or should we develop zoning and planning policies that are pro-actively encouraging development of the less productive or the non-productive agricultural farmland?”


Edward Mueller, supervisor of Durand Township, is upset the county wants to push the proposal through. “This is a stinking mess,” Mueller said. “This is a whole lot of manure. The next thing someone would say is, ‘That’s ridiculous.’”

He said although the county states the land isn’t developed, it really is developed land. “Schmidt has given us the best it could be,” he said. “I’m giving the pendulum swung the other way.”

Neil Dreier, a Durand Township trustee, is also concerned about the proposal. “We’re afraid that it’ll end up being like helter-skelter housing with no control,” Dreier said. “We can’t see what was wrong with the old way.”

Dreier thinks the whole concept is politically motivated. “The county wants growth and invites it because they want more money,” he stated. “If they do that then they’ll be restricted to a smaller piece of land per house. Nobody will listen to us anyway.”

Like many concerned people, Dreier believes the zoning will adversely affect farmers. “The whole thing is bad for farmers—the fact that it takes up farmland,” he said. “You’ve got all these bits and pieces around. I don’t know why they couldn’t expand operations.”

Letter to the county board

A letter dated Oct. 4 that was sent to all county board members illustrates the feelings of the Winnebago County Farm Bureau and the Township Supervisors/Planning Committees.

The bureau and the townships contend the development resulting from the zoning change doesn’t preserve prime farmland and is “detrimental” to growth. They say the developments scattered about the county would take up more agricultural land than subdivisions in places where water and sewer hook-up currently exists.

“We know from experience that any regulations that would restrict the number of parcels of farmland to be eligible for RF development could be changed if it is determined that more usage of the class was desired by the county board in the future,” according to the letter.

They argue that while the farmettes would increase growth, they wouldn’t provide funds necessary for more emergency and fire services.

They also feel the zoning won’t allow orderly growth, either. The bureau and townships state the district is really a residential district that would be placed in the middle of an agricultural district, even though it is “being sold as an Ag District.”

They also maintain no opportunity exists for neighbors to appeal the farmette development, and it doesn’t even use the zoning specifications to determine if the piece of land qualifies for the RF designation.

The bureau and townships think that economically, residential areas are harmful to the agricultural investment in rural areas. “Farmers will not be willing to expand their operations if they are encroached by five-acre tracts around the county,” the letter says.

They maintain the desired development in the rural parts of the county won’t occur since the five-acre tracts of land “dilute the rural areas by allowing residential growth all over the county.”

Moreover, road access that meets the long-term needs of rural residents is a problem because the five-acre tracts will require extra roads and cost more.

Their solution is to leave the Ag-1 and AG-2 districts alone. They also feel that when limiting the use of RA zoning in Ag areas of the county to promote development, the county has more control of it when the development occurs and where it is located.

They think each change from Ag or Ag1 district must go through the Zoning Board of Appeals to be residential or reclassified.

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