After years of thoughtful planning designed to support responsible shoreline development that benefits both water quality and property values in Bayfield County, the Walker Agenda flipped the County’s shoreline-saving concept on its head over the summer. This photo of a lake in southern Wisconsin shows the kind of overdevelopment that could crowd out our northern lakes as well.
Going for the easy way out, Walker’s Agenda has made a one-size-fits-all ruling that negates any shoreline zoning at the county level that is stricter than that imposed at the State level. Why the State is weighing in now and why the State thinks it knows best about shoreline zoning for each county is puzzling.
Bayfield County is nothing like Milwaukee County or Fond du Lac County or Wood County or La Crosse County – or any other county in the State. For example, while Bayfield County has 962 lakes (22,629 acres), Milwaukee County has 41 lakes (197 Acres), Fond du Lac County has 42 lakes (1,665 acres), Wood County has 78 lakes (6,245 acres) and La Crosse County has 19 lakes (8,568 acres). The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest covers 268,700 acres of forests, streams, inland lakes, and wilderness areas in Bayfield County. These other counties have little, if any, National Forest within their boundaries. Bayfield County’s numerous lakes and vast forested area identify our region. As valued assets, we need to protect them.
The Walker Agenda state shoreline plan is very relaxed. While it may be good news for some, especially developers, it is terrible news for lakeshore property owners and buyers who seek larger lots, clean water, privacy, quiet, great fishing and life up here in what we call “the north woods.” You can slice up the lakeshore on a 150-acre lake, but will people actually purchase the lots? Maybe down in southern Wisconsin where there are few lakes, but up here, people do not want to be shoulder-to-shoulder on a lake. Most people live shoulder-to-shoulder in their daily lives and coming Up North means room to move and room to breathe. The Walker Agenda aims to treat northern Wisconsin lakes the same as southern Wisconsin beltway lakes. There is no comparison!
At King Realty, we are very disappointed with this turn of events. Our northern counties have spent years studying lakeshore zoning that protects and preserves the north woods lifestyle. This protection has also preserved property values. One ray of light is that townships can impose their own standards for shoreline development. Doing this at the town level requires lots of time and local input, so we don’t think anything will change very soon. We hope this lazy approach of blanket zoning is challenged and that decision-making on this issue goes back to the county level in our state.