Town Plan Commission recommends tighter controls on substandard parcels, two-family homes
The Town of Belgium Plan Commission formally recommended to the Town Board a measure that will change its zoning code.
The practices of lakefront owners putting vacant lots into a trust for their children and houses being turned into two-family residences were common before the zoning code was adopted, but are restricted now.
A change to the zoning code will not allow a vacant substandard lot to be sold or used if the adjoining lot has common ownership, which is defined as an individual alone or as a member, shareholder, trustee or other principal of a trust, corporate entity or other landholding venture.
The commission also accepted changes to the Zoning Board of Appeals and changes and amendments to the zoning ordinance at its Nov. 20 meeting.
Property owners within 500 feet of the affected site will be notified and have a chance to appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals within 30 days of written notice of a change in the interpretation of the zoning ordinance.
Notice will also be given to all property owners immediately adjacent to the site such as across a right-of-way, railways, streets and highways.
The change was originally set for property owners within 100 feet of the sites, but commission member Catherine Urness said lakefront property owners would object.
“I think people want to know what’s going on down there,” Urness, who owns a property near the lake, said. “It’s been 500 feet for 40 years, I think it could work for 40 more.”
Additionally, two-family residences are no longer allowed except those that existed prior to 1966 in residential areas and 1985 in agriculture districts. Once a duplex becomes a single-family home, it cannot be turned back into a duplex, according to the ordinance.
The issue was originally raised at the Sept. 16 Plan Commission meeting because Bill Eischen requested two fire numbers for property he owns on Highway KK.
Zoning Administrator Charles Parks said Eischen is renting the house on the property and also wants to rent a chicken coop that had been remodeled as a dwelling for his daughter who no longer lives there.
“I don’t think he should have two fire numbers,” Parks said in September. “I think if the town puts a fire number on it that could open the town to liability. Now, we say you can’t do it. If they do it and something happens, we can say it wasn’t allowed.”
Rick Kania of Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, who helped update the ordinance with Parks and Plan Commission member Kay Wolfe, said the town has to decide if it wants to keep common ownership or change it to identical ownership.
The issue of common vs. identical ownership when it comes to vacant substandard lots was raised for the second time by Urness.
She owns a lot and home with her husband and abutting land and a cottage in a trust with her brother. There are houses on both lots, so the ordinance doesn’t apply to her situation.
“But if there wasn’t a house, would it be fair to other members of the trust to be penalized because of me?” Urness asked.
“I think you’re going to penalize people because it’s been in the family for generations. That (practice) was common on the lake.”
The changes must go to a public hearing, which will occur in January. The ordinance then would have to be approved by the Town Board.