News from North Dakota: Arbitrary and capricious explained, as is N.D. township zoning authority

I’ve seen a couple of articles on the North Dakota Supreme Court case  of Dokter v. Burleigh County Board of Commissioners, discussed here, that suggest this case is causing quite the stir in the Peace Garden State (yes, I looked that up).  As in some other Upper Midwest states, townships have authority to adopt zoning.  Also as in some of these other states, the ability for townships to do so is subject to legislative rules that define the limits of that authority vis-a-vis county authority to do the same.  Prior to the 2015 state legislative session a township that unilaterally relinquished zoning authority to the county could not reclaim that authority.  Under a bill passed this year townships can now do so by mutual agreement with the county commission.

The Dokter case is apparently causing townships to consider this option.  A good article on this, and the “arbitrary and capricious” standard of review for zoning decisions adopted by most state courts (actually all state courts that I am familiar with) can be found here.

Update on Wisconsin land use…er…budget bill

First discussed here, the Wisconsin Legislature included in its budget bill a provision that would have exempted a state building development at Hill Farms from Madison zoning ordinances, and another that would have required the Department of Administration to solicit lease options outside of Dane and Milwaukee counties before renewing leases for state offices

This week Governor Scott Walker used his line item veto authority to veto both provisions.  The full story can be found here:

Apparently Wisconsin Legislature treats its budget bills like I treat the bottom drawer of my desk

A week or so ago I posted about all the interesting things you can find in the Wisconsin Legislature’s budget bill that have nothing to do with the state budget, from exempting single state buildings from Madison’s zoning ordinance and requiring the state to  consider relocating its agencies to buildings outside of Dane and Milwaukee counties before renewing current leases, to altering Madison’s ability to use its lodging tax to support city services.

There is more!  Republicans also added to the state budget a provision that would bar counties from imposing stiffer zoning requirements along shorelines than those in state law.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an op-ed today opposing the measure, arguing that “it’s absurd to think that one size fits all, especially considering there are 15,000 lakes in Wisconsin with different levels of development around them. Counties should have the authority to work out improved controls for the lakes in their jurisdictions when warranted and in conjunction with property owners and lake associations.”


News from Wisconsin: Wisconsin legislature moves to preempt Madison zoning of single state building

Another for the “state involved in local affairs” file.  The Republican-led budget committee of the Wisconsin House insert a provision in the budget bill to exempt the site of the Hill Farms state office building from the City of Madison’s zoning regulations.  The office building is slated for redevelopment, and the city and the state have been working to accommodate the new building in the city’s zoning code.  “It is of concern to us, not just in terms of this building but in terms of the future,” said Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.

The full story from the Wisconsin State Journal is here.
Another interesting story that reflects the tensions between the city of Madison and the state legislature: Another proposal tucked into the budget bill would require the state to  consider relocating its agencies to buildings outside of Dane and Milwaukee counties before renewing current leases.

And even more!  Another proposal in the budget bill would alter the Madison’s ability to use its lodging tax to support city services, the Mayor saying it could cost Madison’s general fund $1 million next year.

News from Kansas: Legislature preempts local zoning of gun sales

The Kansas legislature has approved a measure prohibiting local governments from using zoning ordinances to limit gun sales, or imposing special taxes on firearms.  The bill has passed both the Kansas House and Senate, and will go to Governor Sam Brownback for his signature.

Read the Kansas City Star article here.

News from Nebraska: Livestock siting bill, significantly amended, moves forward

The Nebraska Legislature’s attempt to create uniformity in the livestock permitting process, first discussed here, is advancing as a result of compromise language.  Under the bill, a panel of experts appointed by the State Department of Agriculture would develop a matrix that county officials could use to determine whether to approve a livestock operation. LB106 passed its first reading on a 32-3 vote to advance, however, by removing language that made state livestock siting regulations mandatory for elected county officials. It would be up to individual county boards to decide whether to use the state standards.

Most of the senators who opposed the original bill said it substantially reduced local control over where to allow major livestock facilities. Livestock industry groups that support the bill say uniform standards on setbacks, odor control and other requirements would make the state more attractive to livestock producers.

An article from the Omaha World-Herald is here.

News from around North Dakota: Williston P&Z Committee tables $500 million project in the North Dakota oil patch

Stropiq, a Swiss-based real estate company has asked the Williams County Commission (the elected body) to force its Planning and Zoning Committee to make a recommendation on Williston Crossing. a proposed $500 million development on the outskirts of the oil patch hub of Williston, North Dakota.  The project would include 1 million square feet of space for retail, entertainment, office, hotel and housing development.  Stropiq characterizes the development as a regional destination with a water park and other attractions that would draw people from southern Canada, eastern Montana and surrounding areas in North Dakota.

The Williston Planning and Zoning Committee voted to table the proposal in order to study the effects of the development on local resources such as fire protection, utilities, roads, and sewer and water service.

An article from the Williston Herald is here.  US Census Bureau QuickFacts about Williston can be found here.  According to the Census Bureau, the population of Williston grew 41 percent from 2010 to 2013, from 14,787 to 20,850.  How many communities of 15,000 are prepared for 1 million square feet of additional development, let alone cope with the stresses associated with 41 percent population growth in 3 years?  Maybe the the Planning and Zoning Committee is right to get all the facts first on this project before making its recommendation.

News from around Nebraska: Bill in NE legislature considers scoring system for siting livestock operations

The Nebraska legislature is considering instituting a scoring system that would give county officials a way to factor in considerations like odor and manure control, as well as economic impact, when making decisions on siting livestock operations.  The ultimate decision-making authority would still remain with the county.  “Allow them to go step by step and document the fact they’re using science to deny or grant a permit. I’m very favorable of it. I’m all about improving the situation for agriculture and especially in livestock in Nebraska,” said Senator Watermeier, who introduce the bill, LB106.

An article from NTV is here.

The text of LB106 is here.

Des Moines IA Water Works votes to sue 3 counties over nitrate levels in Raccoon River

On Thursday the Des Moines Water Works board moved forward with its plans to sue the supervisors in Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun counties over the nitrate levels in the North Raccoon River.  The lawsuit targets several drainage districts that are managed by the three counties. Weekly samples taken from the river in Sac County since March have shown high concentrations of nitrates, which have triggered costly treatment operations downstream at the Des Moines Water Works facility.  Nitrates occur naturally in the soil, but can spike in water when manure and other fertilizers drain into waterways. The Water Works has been running its denitrification facility since early December to reduce the nitrate levels to EPA-permissible levels, at a cost of $4,000 per day.

The lawsuit would be filed in federal court under the U.S. Clean Water Act, which grants regulatory exemptions to nonpoint source discharges, including field tile systems on individual farms.  Water Works officials contend that organized drainage districts shouldn’t be exempt from regulations.  This case could have far-reaching implications for the control of nonpoint source pollutants from agricultural lands.

The full Des Moines Register story is here.