NR 115.02 Applicability.
The provisions of this chapter
apply to county regulation of the use and development of unincorporated shoreland areas, and to annexed or incorporated areas except as provided in s. 59.692 (7)
, Stats. Unless specifically exempted by law, all cities, villages, towns, counties and, when s. 13.48 (13)
, Stats., applies, state agencies are required to comply with, and obtain all necessary permits under, local shoreland ordinances. The construction, reconstruction, maintenance or repair of state highways and bridges carried out under the direction and supervision of the Wisconsin department of transportation is not subject to local shoreland zoning ordinances if s. 30.2022 (1m)
, Stats., applies.
NR 115.02 Note
Under section 59.692 (7)
, Stats., areas annexed after May 7, 1982 and areas incorporated after April 30, 1994 were generally subject to the county shoreland zoning ordinances in effect on the date of annexation or incorporation. Effective December 14, 2013, 2013 Wis. Act 80
repealed s. 59.692 (2m) (c) and (7), amended s. 59.692 (6m), and created ss. 61.353 and 62.233. 2013 WI Act 80
is retroactive as well as prospective, and applies to all shorelands areas annexed since May 7, 1982 or incorporated since April 30, 1994.
NR 115.02 History
Cr. Register, July, 1980, No. 295
, eff. 8-1-80; am. Register, October, 1980, No. 298
, eff. 11-1-80; CR 05-058
: am. Register January 2010 No. 649
, eff. 2-1-10; correction made under s. 13.92 (4) (b) 7.
, Stats., Register January 2010 No. 649
; correction made under s. 13.92 (4) (b) 7., Stats., Register January 2017 No. 733
NR 115.03 Definitions.
For the purpose of this chapter:
“Access and viewing corridor" means a strip of vegetated land that allows safe pedestrian access to the shore through the vegetative buffer zone.
“Boathouse" means a permanent structure used for the storage of watercraft and associated materials and includes all structures which are totally enclosed, have roofs or walls or any combination of these structural parts.
“Building envelope" means the three dimensional space within which a structure is built.
“County zoning agency" means that committee or commission created or designated by the county board under s. 59.69 (2) (a)
, Stats., to act in all matters pertaining to county planning and zoning.
“Department" means the department of natural resources.
“Existing development pattern" means that principal structures exist within 250 feet of a proposed principal structure in both directions along the shoreline.
“Flood plain" means the land which has been or may be hereafter covered by flood water during the regional flood. The flood plain includes the floodway and the flood fringe as those terms are defined in ch. NR 116
“Impervious surface" means an area that releases as runoff all or a majority of the precipitation that falls on it. “Impervious surface" excludes frozen soil but includes rooftops, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, and streets unless specifically designed, constructed, and maintained to be pervious.
“Mitigation" means balancing measures that are designed, implemented and function to restore natural functions and values that are otherwise lost through development and human activities.
“Navigable waters" means Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, all natural inland lakes within Wisconsin and all streams, ponds, sloughs, flowages and other waters within the territorial limits of this state, including the Wisconsin portion of boundary waters, which are navigable under the laws of this state. Under s. 281.31 (2) (d)
, Stats., notwithstanding any other provision of law or administrative rule promulgated thereunder, shoreland ordinances required under s. 59.692
, Stats., and this chapter do not apply to lands adjacent to farm drainage ditches if:
Such lands are not adjacent to a natural navigable stream or river;
Those parts of such drainage ditches adjacent to such lands were nonnavigable streams before ditching or had no previous stream history; and
Such lands are maintained in nonstructural agricultural use.
NR 115.03 Note
In Muench v. Public Service Commission
, 261 Wis. 492 (1952), the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that a stream is navigable in fact if it is capable of floating any boat, skiff, or canoe, of the shallowest draft used for recreational purposes. In DeGayner and Co., v. Department of Natural Resources, 70 Wis. 2d 936
(1975), the court also held that a stream need not be navigable in its normal or natural condition to be navigable in fact. The DeGayner opinion indicates that it is proper to consider artificial conditions, such as beaver dams, where such conditions have existed long enough to make a stream useful as a highway for recreation or commerce, and to consider ordinarily recurring seasonal fluctuations, such as spring floods, in determining the navigability of a stream.
“Ordinary high-water mark" means the point on the bank or shore up to which the presence and action of surface water is so continuous as to leave a distinctive mark such as by erosion, destruction or prevention of terrestrial vegetation, predominance of aquatic vegetation, or other easily recognized characteristic. Where the bank or shore at any particular place is of such character that it is difficult or impossible to ascertain where the point of ordinary high-water mark is, recourse may be had to the opposite bank of a stream or to other places on the shore of a lake or flowage to determine whether a given stage of water is above or below the ordinary high-water mark.
“Regional flood" means a flood determined to be representative of large floods known to have generally occurred in Wisconsin and which may be expected to occur on a particular stream because of like physical characteristics once in every 100 years.
NR 115.03 Note
Note: The regional flood is based upon a statistical analysis of streamflow records available for watershed and/or an analysis of rainfall and runoff characteristics in the general watershed region. The flood frequency of the regional flood is once in every 100 years. In any given year, there is a 1% chance that the regional flood may occur. During a typical 30-year mortgage period, the regional flood has a 26% chance of occurring.
“Routine maintenance of vegetation" means normally accepted horticultural practices that do not result in the loss of any layer of existing vegetation and do not require earth disturbance.
“Shorelands" means lands within the following distances from the ordinary high-water mark of navigable waters: 1,000 feet from a lake, pond or flowage; and 300 feet from a river or stream or to the landward side of the flood plain, whichever distance is greater.
“Shoreland-wetland zoning district" means a zoning district, created as a part of a county shoreland zoning ordinance, comprised of shorelands that are designated as wetlands on the Wisconsin wetland inventory maps prepared by the department.
“Special exception (conditional use)" means a use which is permitted by a shoreland zoning ordinance provided that certain conditions specified in the ordinance are met and that a permit is granted by the board of adjustment or, where appropriate, the planning and zoning committee or county board.
“Unnecessary hardship" means that circumstance where special conditions affecting a particular property, which were not self-created, have made strict conformity with restrictions governing area, setbacks, frontage, height or density unnecessarily burdensome or unreasonable in light of the purposes of the zoning ordinance.
“Wetlands" means those areas where water is at, near or above the land surface long enough to be capable of supporting aquatic or hydrophytic vegetation, and which have soils indicative of wet conditions.
NR 115.03 History
Cr. Register, July, 1980, No. 295
, eff. 8-1-80; renum. (2) to (12) to be (3) to (13), cr. (2), r. and recr. (7), am. (11) and (13), Register, October, 1980, No. 298
, eff. 11-1-80; corrections in (2) (a) 1. and (b) 2. made under s. 13.93 (2m) (b) 7., Stats., Register, April, 2000, No. 532
; CR 05-058
: am. (intro.), renum. (1) to be (1h), cr. (1d), (1p), (3m), (4g), (4r) and (7m), r. (12) Register January 2010 No. 649
, eff. 2-1-10.
Establishment of Shoreland-wetland zoning districts.
Counties shall adopt shoreland ordinances that include zoning regulations for shoreland-wetland zoning districts.
(2) Amendment of Shoreland-wetland maps and zoning districts. NR 115.04(2)(a)(a)
County review of wetland inventory map amendments.
After the department amends final Wisconsin wetland inventory maps:
The department shall transmit to the county zoning agency designated under s. 59.69 (2) (a)
, Stats., digital files or paper copies of amended wetland inventory maps for that county.
If the county believes that the amended maps are inaccurate, within 30 days of receiving the amended maps the county shall note discrepancies on the maps with an accompanying narrative explaining the amended problem areas and return a copy of the notated map and narrative to the department.
The department shall, at department expense, consult available soil survey maps and conduct on-site inspections, if appropriate, in order to evaluate the county recommendations, and shall then prepare final amended Wisconsin wetland inventory maps for that county.
NR 115.04 Note
Note: As of 1985 all counties adopted official wetland zoning maps and amendments occur as accuracy increases.
(b) County amendment of shoreland-wetland maps and zoning districts. NR 115.04(2)(b)1.1.
Within 6 months after receipt of final amended Wisconsin wetland inventory maps for that county from the department, a county shall zone all shorelands designated as wetlands on the amended Wisconsin wetland inventory maps in a shoreland-wetland zoning district. If a county fails to zone all shoreland-wetlands within this 6 month period, s. NR 115.06 (3) (b)
Ordinance text and map amendments creating or amending shoreland-wetland zoning districts shall be referred to the county zoning agency for public hearing as required by s. 59.69 (5) (e) 2.
NR 115.04 Note
Note: Where an apparent discrepancy exists between a shoreland-wetland district shown on an amended map and actual field conditions, the county shall contact the department to determine if the amended map is in error. If the department determines that a particular area was incorrectly mapped as wetland or meets the wetland definition but was not shown as wetland on the map, the county shall have the authority to immediately grant or deny a shoreland zoning permit in accordance with the applicable regulations based on the department determination as to whether the area is wetland. In order to correct wetland mapping errors on the official zoning map, an official map amendment must be initiated within a reasonable period of time, not to exceed one year following the determination.
At least 10 days prior to the public hearing, the county shall provide the appropriate regional office of the department with a copy of the proposed text and map amendments and with written notice of the public hearing.
Official ordinance amendments are required for any proposed change in shoreland-wetland zoning. Such amendments shall be made in accordance with provisions of s. 59.69 (5) (e)
, Stats. Official amendments to the ordinance text shall be made promptly. Provided the ordinance text is promptly amended, a county may amend its official map within a reasonable period of time not to exceed one year following the change in shoreland-wetland zoning.
The county clerk shall submit a copy of every proposed amendment to a shoreland-wetland zoning district to the appropriate regional office of the department within 5 days of the filing of such proposed amendment with the clerk.
All proposed text and map amendments to shoreland-wetland zoning districts shall be referred to the county zoning agency for a public notice and hearing as required by s. 59.69 (5) (e) 2.
, Stats. The appropriate regional office of the department shall be provided with written notice of the public hearing at least 10 days prior to such hearing.
In order to ensure that the shoreland protection objectives found in s. 281.31
, Stats., will be accomplished by the county shoreland ordinance, a county shall not rezone a shoreland-wetland zoning district, or portion thereof, if the proposed rezoning may result in a significant adverse impact upon any of the following:
Maintenance of dry season stream flow, or the discharge of groundwater to a wetland, the recharge of groundwater from a wetland to another area, or the flow of groundwater through a wetland;
Filtering or storage of sediments, nutrients, heavy metals or organic compounds that would otherwise drain into navigable waters;
Areas of special recreational, scenic or scientific interest, including scarce wetland types.
If the department determines that the proposed rezoning may have a significant adverse impact upon any of the criteria listed in subd. 4.
, the department shall notify the county zoning agency of its determination either prior to or during the public hearing held on the proposed amendment.
As soon as possible after holding a public hearing, the county zoning agency shall submit its written findings and recommendations to the county board. Said findings shall outline the reason for the agency's recommendations. After receipt of the county zoning agency's findings and recommendations, the board may approve or disapprove of the proposed amendment.
The appropriate regional office of the department shall be provided with all of the following:
A copy of the county zoning agency's findings and recommendations on the proposed amendment within 10 days after the submission of those findings and recommendations to the county board;
Written notice of the board's decision on the proposed amendment within 10 days after it is issued.
If the county board approves of the proposed amendment and the department determines, after review as required by s. NR 115.06 (2) (c)
, that the county shoreland zoning ordinance if so amended would no longer comply with the requirements of s. 59.692
, Stats., and this chapter, the department shall, after notice and hearing, adopt a complying ordinance for the county, under s. 59.692 (6)
If the department has notified the county zoning agency that a proposed amendment may have a significant adverse impact upon any of the criteria listed in subd. 4.
, that proposed amendment, if approved by the county board, shall not become effective until more than 30 days have elapsed since written notice of the county board's approval was mailed to the department, as required by subd. 7.
If within the 30-day period the department notifies the county board that the department intends to adopt a superseding shoreland zoning ordinance for the county under s. 59.692 (6)
, Stats., the proposed amendment shall not become effective while the ordinance adoption procedure is proceeding, but shall have its effect stayed until the s. 59.692 (6)
, Stats., procedure is completed or otherwise terminated.
(3) Permitted uses in shoreland-wetland zoning districts.
Within shoreland-wetland zoning districts, counties shall permit the following uses subject to the general requirements of s. NR 115.05
, the provisions of chs. 30
, Stats., and other state and federal laws, if applicable:
Hiking, fishing, trapping, hunting, swimming and boating.
The harvesting of wild crops, such as marsh hay, ferns, moss, wild rice, berries, tree fruits and tree seeds, in a manner that is not injurious to the natural reproduction of such crops and that does not involve filling, flooding, draining, dredging, ditching, tiling or excavating.
The practice of silviculture, including the planting, thinning and harvesting of timber, provided that no filling, flooding, draining, dredging, ditching, tiling or excavating is done except as required to construct and maintain roads which are necessary to conduct silviculture activities, which cannot as a practical matter be located outside the wetland, and which are designed and constructed to minimize the adverse impact upon the natural functions of the wetland, or except as required for temporary water level stabilization measures to alleviate abnormally wet or dry conditions which would have an adverse impact on the conduct of silvicultural activities if not corrected.
NR 115.04 Note
Note: Local units of government, in the development and application of ordinances which apply to shoreland areas, must consider other programs of statewide interest and other state regulations affecting the lands to be regulated, i.e. regulations and management practices applicable to state and county forests and lands entered under the forest cropland and managed forest land programs.
The pasturing of livestock and the construction and maintenance of fences, provided that no filling, flooding, draining, dredging, ditching, tiling or excavating is done.
The cultivation of agricultural crops if cultivation can be accomplished without filling, flooding or artificial drainage of the wetland through ditching, tiling, dredging or excavating except that flooding, dike and dam construction, and ditching shall be allowed for the purpose of growing and harvesting cranberries. The maintenance and repair of existing drainage systems (such as ditching and tiling) shall be permitted. The construction and maintenance of roads shall be permitted if the roads are necessary for agricultural cultivation, cannot as a practical matter be located outside the wetland, and are designed and constructed to minimize the adverse impact upon the natural functions of the wetland.
The construction and maintenance of duck blinds provided that no filling, flooding, draining, dredging, ditching, tiling or excavating is done.
The construction and maintenance of nonresidential structures, not to exceed 500 square feet, used solely in conjunction with the raising of waterfowl, minnows, or other wetland or aquatic animals, or used solely for some other purpose which is compatible with wetland preservation if the structure cannot as a practical matter be located outside the wetland, provided that no filling, flooding, draining, dredging, ditching, tiling or excavating is done.
The construction and maintenance of piers, docks and walkways, including those built on pilings, provided that no filling, flooding, dredging, draining, ditching, tiling or excavating is done.
The establishment and development of public and private parks and recreation areas, boat access sites, natural and outdoor education areas, historic and scientific areas, wildlife refuges, game preserves and private wildlife habitat areas, provided that no filling is done and that any private wildlife habitat area is used exclusively for that purpose. The owner or operator of a new private recreation or wildlife area to be located in a shoreland-wetland zoning district shall be required to notify the county zoning agency of the proposed project before beginning construction. Ditching, excavating, dredging, dike and dam construction shall be allowed in wildlife refuges, game preserves, and private wildlife habitat areas for the purpose of improving wildlife habitat or to otherwise enhance wetland values.
The construction and maintenance of electric, gas, telephone water and sewer transmission and distribution lines, and related facilities, by public utilities and cooperative associations organized for the purpose of producing or furnishing heat, light, power or water to their members, which cannot as a practical matter be located outside the wetland, provided that any filling, excavating, ditching or draining necessary for such construction or maintenance is done in a manner designed to minimize flooding and other adverse impacts upon the natural functions of the wetland.
NR 115.04 Note
Major electrical generating facilities and high-voltage transmission lines that have obtained a certificate of public convenience and necessity under s. 196.491
, Stats., are not subject to the requirements of local ordinances.
The construction and maintenance of railroad lines which cannot as a practical matter be located outside the wetland, provided that any filling, excavating, ditching or draining necessary for the construction or maintenance is done in a manner designed to minimize flooding and other adverse impacts upon the natural functions of the wetland.
The maintenance, repair, replacement, and reconstruction of existing town and county highways and bridges.
(4) Prohibited uses in shoreland-wetland zoning districts.
Any use not permitted in sub. (3)
is prohibited in a shoreland-wetland zoning district unless the wetland or portion thereof is rezoned by amendment of the county shoreland zoning ordinance in accordance with s. 59.69 (5) (e)
, Stats., and the procedures outlined in sub. (2) (c)
NR 115.04 History
History: CR 05-058
: cr. Register January 2010 No. 649
, eff. 2-1-10.
NR 115.05 Minimum zoning standards for shorelands. NR 115.05(1)(1)
Establishment of shoreland zoning standards.
The shoreland zoning ordinance adopted by each county shall control use of shorelands to afford the protection of water quality as specified in chs. NR 102
. At a minimum, the ordinance shall include all of the following provisions:
(a) Minimum lot sizes.
Minimum lot sizes in the shoreland area shall be established to afford protection against danger to health, safety and welfare, and protection against pollution of the adjacent body of water.
1. `Sewered lots.'
Lots served by public sanitary sewer shall have a minimum average width of 65 feet and a minimum area of 10,000 square feet.
2. `Unsewered lots.'
Lots not served by public sanitary sewer shall have a minimum average width of 100 feet and a minimum area of 20,000 square feet.
3. `Substandard lots.'
A legally created lot or parcel that met minimum area and minimum average width requirements when created, but does not meet current lot size requirements, may be used as a building site if all of the following apply:
NR 115.05 Note
Effective April 17, 2012, 2011 Wisconsin Act 170
created s. 59.692 (2m)
, Stats., which prohibits a county from enacting, and a county, city, or village from enforcing, any provision in a county shoreland or subdivision ordinance that regulates the construction of a structure or building on a substandard lot if the provision is more restrictive than the standards for substandard lots under ch. NR 115
The substandard lot or parcel was never reconfigured or combined with another lot or parcel by plat, survey, or consolidation by the owner into one property tax parcel.
The substandard lot or parcel has never been developed with one or more of its structures placed partly upon an adjacent lot or parcel.
The substandard lot or parcel is developed to comply with all other ordinance requirements.
4. `Planned unit development.'
A non-riparian lot may be created which does not meet the requirements of subd. 1.
if the county has approved and recorded a plat or certified survey map including that lot within a planned unit development, if the planned unit development contains at least 2 acres or 200 feet of frontage, and if the reduced non-riparian lot sizes are allowed in exchange for larger shoreland buffers and setbacks on those lots adjacent to navigable waters that are proportional to and offset the impacts of the reduced lots on habitat, water quality and natural scenic beauty.
(b) Building setbacks.
Permitted building setbacks shall be established to conform to health, safety and welfare requirements, preserve natural beauty, reduce flood hazards and avoid water pollution.