Powerful Special Interests Back Restrictions on Land Use Regulation

December 2, 2015

Two Republican lawmakers are pushing bills that would restrict the authority of state and local governments to enforce numerous environmental, construction and other rules and standards that affect what individuals and businesses may do on their property and adjacent bodies of water.

The measures, which were drawn up by Sen. Frank Lasee, of De Pere, and Rep. Adam Jarchow, of Balsam Lake, are backed by agriculture, construction and real estate interests, according to the authors. Those three powerful special interests collectively contributed about $55,000 to Lasee in his last four-year election cycle between January 2011 and December 2014, and nearly $12,000 to Jarchow in 2014 – the year he was elected.

Key elements of the bills would:

Prevent counties from enacting county-wide construction moratoriums;

Prevent local governments from restricting the ability of businesses or individuals from selling their property;

Require local governments to contact property owners about proposed zoning changes that would affect their property;

Require courts to side with property owners in legal disputes in which the ordinance is unclear;

Reduce the regulation of storm water control systems and other man-made ditches and waterways;

Change Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permits for dredging and beach grooming;

Require legislative approval of areas for which the DNR wants to provide extra protection, such as habitats for endangered species, coastal wetlands, or wild and scenic rivers;

Loosen riprap, seawall and boathouse maintenance and repair rules;

Relax the process to get permits for wetland development and construction projects.

Lasee’s top contributors among construction, agriculture and real estate interests since he was first elected to the legislature in 1994, through June 2015, were James and Annette Ostrom, of De Pere, $5,300; and John and Keri Vosters, of Freedom, $4,200. The Ostroms and Vosters are owners of Milk Source, one of Wisconsin’s largest factory farm operations.

Jarchow’s top contributors between January 2014 and June 2015 among the special interest groups that support the bills are $1,000 from Kevin and Emily Lindus, of Luck, owners of Lindus Construction; and $1,000 from Chris and Michelle Nelson, of Balsam Lake, owners of Nelson Construction Services.