.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Who's responsibility is healthcare?

Mike Heine's recent article on county employee health care benefits generated a strong response from readers. (See the letters section in the Sunday, Dec. 2 Week).

The issue of health care costs goes far beyond county benefits, and to who should be responsible for the expense of health care in the first place.

I've always found it surprising that people tend to complain that workers should have less health care benefits, rather than complaining about those who work and don't have any.

There are strong arguments for moving away from employer paid health care, and our country has slowly moved in that direction over the last ten years.

The problem arises in that no suitable alternative has been created in its place. The end result being that the cost of health care is increasingly being born by workers, effectively limiting the amount of money they have left to contribute to the economy.

What's the best alternative? Add your comments here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lake Geneva's development debate goes public Tuesday evening

The hottest ticket in Walworth County Tuesday night will be in Lake Geneva. Although tickets won't actually be needed, if you want a good seat, arrive early.

That's because Tuesday is when the public hearing for the proposed Mirbeau-Hummel development on Lake Geneva's south side continues.

The first public hearing on Oct. 30 lasted 90 minutes, not nearly enough time to let everyone speak.

This time, the hearing will be held at the Badger High School auditorium, beginning at 6 p.m. and is expected to last two hours

Residents who would like to speak must fill out a speaker card, and speakers will alternate in favor of and against the development. Speakers will be limited to three minutes. Two hours have been allotted for public comment.

The proposal has divided residents of the city, and those feelings will come to a head at the meeting.

The proposal tentatively includes:

-- Residential development of 882 homes, which would be a mix of single-family, row houses, town houses and duplexes.

-- The Mirbeau Retreat would have 100 rooms and 12 villas, a spa, banquet and conference facilities; also 57 single-family cottages, which would be sold to private owners

-- A winery on 25 acres, with vineyard, wine production facilities, a restaurant and related retail

-- Permanent conservation of 375 acres (53 percent) of the site from development

-- Hiking and biking paths for both residents and the public

This is a debate with no clear and easy outcome.

As letters to the editor in this Week's paper illustrate, there are persuasive arguments on each side and significant issues that need to be addressed.

Among this week's letters are two by former Lake Geneva city officials. They've summed up the debate this way:

Robert Flemming, who served as an alderman for 20 years writes that the development will preserve of more than half of the property, generate additional property and room taxes and will follow the city's master plan.

On the other side, former councilman Ed Yeager says don't be fooled, He writes that the development will destroy small city atmosphere, not preserve it.

There are clearly many in the city of Lake Geneva and Linn Township who agree with one side or the other.

Robust debate is the last line of defense to prevent bad ideas from becoming public policy. That's why Tuesday's public hearing is so important.

But this doesn't need to be a "my-way-or-the-highway" decision either.

If the council does choose to approve the rezone, it's important that they come up with ways to address the legitimate concerns of those residents opposed to the project.

How Lake Geneva decides this issue will go a long way in determining the future of the city.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Walworth County zoning Q&A

From Donna Lenz Wright's cover story and interview with Michael Cotter, Walworth County Land Use and Resource Management director, the eight most frequently asked questions.

The Walworth County Land Use and Resource Management office is located in the Walworth County Government Center on the square in downtown Elkhorn:


1


Q: How do I find out what zoning district my property is zoned in?
A: Make an appointment with a code enforcement officer.

--- Come into the office and look on the aerial maps.

--- There is a $30 fee if you need the zoning in writing.

--- Visit www.co.walworth.wi.us.

2


Q: When do I need a zoning permit?
A: A zoning permit is required for any construction, addition or alteration of any structure, including but not limited to sheds, carports, decks, patios, porches, dormers, towers, new or replacement retaining walls, entrance pillars and gates, shoreyard stairs and landings and shoreland vegetation removal or grading.

3


Q: What if I am only replacing what is there?
A: A zoning permit is required even if the structure exists and the person is replacing it.

4


Q: Do I need a permit for a fence?
A: No, as long as the fence does not exceed 4 feet in the street or shore yards and 6 feet in the side and rear yards. It is required to be at least 2 feet from the right-of-way and is not permitted to be greater than 2 feet in height in the vision triangle of an intersection. A fence in the shoreyard is not permitted to be a barrier to wildlife.

5


Q: Do I need a permit to cut/remove trees on my property?
A: Sometimes. Contact the zoning office for a determination.

6


Q: Do I need a permit to build a pond?
A: Yes, a County Zoning Permit and a County-approved Land Disturbance and Erosion Control Plan and Permit are required.

7


Q: Can I have horses on my property?
A: Walworth County Zoning permits horses on lands zoned A-1 (prime agricultural land), A-2 (agricultural land), A-3 (agricultural land holding), A-5 (agricultural-rural residential) and C-2 (upland resource conservation). Any building that has animals in them is required to be 100 feet from all property lines. Contact our office for further explanation.

8


Q: How do I apply for a zoning permit?
A: Submit a completed zoning permit application form, plat of survey prepared by a registered land surveyor showing all existing and proposed structures and the fee. Additional materials may be required for certain projects like building plans, grading plans, existing and proposed contours, etc. Construction started without permit approval will be charged a double fee.
~Donna Lenz Wright
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