Wishing you all a Happy Zombie Christmas

A “zombie nativity” that spurred complaints and zoning violation notices last year is on display again in a suburban Cincinnati, Ohio yard, with a change to avoid fines.  The change?  The owner has removed its roof.  (“The stars in the sky look down where the zombies lay….”)  The Sycamore Township zoning administrator said the issue was always about the structure and zoning rules, not the zombie figures.

Happy holidays to all – walkers and humans alike – from the BLUZ.

News from around Minnesota: Islamic group alleges RLUIPA violation in denial of conditional use permit for cemetery

Castle Rock Township, in Dakota County Minnesota (a portion of St. Paul, and south) rejected an application submitted by the original property owner, and a subsequent owner, for a proposed Islamic cemetery to be located in the Township. The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) has asked the US Department of Justice to investigate whether the township acted with an anti-Muslim bias in rejecting the application; specifically, whether the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) was violated when the Castle Rock Township Board rejected the application for a conditional use permit after the Planning Commission had recommended that the board approve it. At the time the application was filed cemeteries were allowed as conditional uses in the zoning district where the land is located. After the denial, however, the Castle Rock Township Board changed the zoning ordinance so that cemeteries were no longer a permissible use in that district.  More on the story from the Minneapolis Star Tribune here.

News from around Minnesota: St. Cloud MN rezones land for solar garden

The St. Cloud City Council recently voted to rezone land to create a place for a solar garden.  Solar gardens are essentially tracts of land on which solar panels are built. The panels are then connected to the power grid. Garden “subscribers” buy into the project and receive a credit on their electric bill.

Minnesota passed a law in 2013 that requires utilities to get at least 1.5 percent of their electricity from solar by 2020.  The law has put Minnesota on the front lines of solar garden development nationwide.

A good article on solar gardens and the zoning issues associated with them is here.

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.





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