On March 22, the Houston County Planning Commission voted to recommend approval for a one-lot subdivision in Union Township. The request will go before the county board on April 3.

Hokah resident Josh Ross told the board he had an enforceable option on the former Jehovah's Witness Hall just west of that city, and he would like to convert the building into a dwelling.

Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan said a re-zone of the 2-1/2 acre tract from ag to residential would be necessary since another dwelling is already located within the quarter/quarter.

The church originally operated with a conditional use permit, he said, adding that subdivisions within two miles of incorporated areas have traditionally been granted.

After a reading of the criteria, the recommendation won unanimous approval from the board. Commissioners Justin Zmyewski and Glenn Kruse were not present.

Ag zoning needs to be changed?

After the vote, Chairman Charles Weiser said, "We've got to change our ordinance so we can change these things without re-zoning. Spot zoning is not the way to go."

Weiser said the county should adopt a different agricultural districting system that would allow for easier access to building permits in non-prime ag areas.

Currently, all agriculture land in the county is zoned in one district (A1). By adopting an A2 or even an A3 for less-prime farming areas, other uses could be permitted.

Commissioner's conduct wrong

Weiser said he was concerned with the way the last planning commission hearing played out, referring to a public meeting held on Feb. 13 to discuss frac (silica) sand mining.

The board voted 4-3 to recommend a frac sand mining moratorium of up to one year at that meeting.

Citing the behavior of county commissioner Justin Zmyewski (and who is also a planning commission member), Wieser asked that the following statement be read into the minutes, stating (verbatim):

"I feel it was inappropriate for a member of the planning commission to write the agenda for a public hearing, so he could have control of the meeting to enhance his position on the outcome of the subject matter which he favored.

"This type of conduct takes away the integrity of the planning commission. The agenda for a public hearing has always been set by staff in a neutral way so it would not affect the outcome of a public hearing. I'm hoping that this will never happen again."

Commissioners Terry Rosendahl and Bruce Lee who also voted against the moratorium agreed with Wieser.

"I totally agree with that," Rosendahl said. "I think it's fine to get information, but a lot of these concerns are over-rated. Justin stepped out of line and took it out of our hands."

Weiser repeated his belief that no new zoning ordinances are needed in Houston County to control mining. "I think the county board did not read it (the current ordinance) very well," he stated.

Commissioner Dan Griffin urged caution.

"In Wisconsin they're buying land right and left," he said, "especially where it's not zoned. What is going on? I have a friend in Wisconsin who sold 80 acres for a million dollars. We've got to get a handle on how big this is going to become. Right now, Trempealeau County has nine public hearings scheduled on new mine permits."

Zoning permits noted

The commission recommended 10 already-issued zoning permits for approval.

They included one home with garage to replace buildings destroyed by fire, two grain bins, two sheds, two pole buildings, and one lean-to, shop and garage.

Those will also go to the county board on April 3.