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Prohibiting pyramiding



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September 29, 2010 | 08:25 AM
Fontana — Pyramiding is a term many people in Walworth County aren't familiar with. However, in Fontana that will soon change.

Pyramiding is increasing the access to a public body of water through private real estate transactions. In the Geneva Lake area that could mean riparian rights would be transferred across the street. Other effects of pyramiding includes increasing the number of boats, piers and buoys on the lake.

During Monday night's Plan Commission meeting, Village Attorney Dale Thorpe presented an ordinance that would prohibit pyramiding. In the next month, village officials will tweak Thorpe's proposal, and there will be a public hearing in October.

If it is adopted, it will be the first ordinance to prohibit pyramiding in Walworth County. Thorpe said he reviewed similar ordinances which were adopted in Waukesha County.

Thorpe said he didn't find an example of the ordinance being challenged in court, but he said the ordinance could be defended.

Pyramiding has been a hot button issue in Fontana for some time — even though it hasn't alwasy been called that.

Recently, Steve Beers proposed a development on North Lake Shore Drive, which includes transferring riparian rights across the street to a yet to be developed property.

Beers' proposal was under fire from members of the community and the Geneva Lake Conservancy. Beers has since withdrawn his proposal, but plans on submitting a new one for that property in the future.

Meanwhile, any applicants who file for a permit while the village is reviewing the proposed pyramiding ordinance will be subject to the existing laws.

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"A completed application can come in one hour before this takes effect," Thorpe said.

Geneva Lake Conservancy Executive Director Joseph McHugh, who has often criticized village officials for not doing enough to address lakefront issues, commended the village's staff for writing the ordinance.

However, he reminded the village that there are other concerns with its ordinances that need to be addressed.

"This is obviously a great start," he said. "(But) I wonder if you create more loopholes with this than you close."

McHugh and others have called on village officials to rewrite Chapters 17 and 18 of its zoning code, which regulates zoning, land use and land division regulations.

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"The ordinances have to be looked at as a whole," he said.

Earlier this year, village officials considered rewriting Chapters 17 and 18 of its zoning code, but didn't move forward because of budgetary concerns.

After the meeting, Trustee Micki O'Connell said the ordinance regulating pyramiding is "long overdue."

However, she agrees with McHugh on rewriting the zoning code.

O'Connell said the preliminary budget proposal includes funding for a rewrite of chapters 17 and 18. However, the final budget won't be approved until November.

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Village President Arvid "Pete" Petersen also welcomed Thorpe's proposal to address the pyramiding issue.

"It's just one step in the right direction" Petersen said. "We would like to be leaders in protecting the shoreline."

Peteren said everyone agrees that Chapters 17 and 18 need to be revisited, but there isn't funding available to do it.

"We will get to it when we can budget the monies," Petersen said.

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