Property Rights Versus Public Rights Debate Resurfaces

Dec 17, 2013

A photoshopped version of what Crescent Lake near Rhinelander might look like if the proposed boathouse changes were enacted. Others disputed this portrayal as not realistic.
Credit Joel Knutson-Crescent Lake

The Oneida County Board has tabled a move to allow boathouses  at the water's edge.

A two-hour debate ensued, centering around the long-time flashpoint of property rights versus the water rights of all residents.

A public hearing in July asked whether to allow boathouses at the water's edge for storage and whether those structures could have flat roofs.

Lake protection groups have said the area near a lakeshore is crucial to maintaining a healthy lake, with runoff a problem.

Supervisor Scott Holowinski said 22 persons attended the hearing, the majority favoring keeping the storage boathouses and allowing flat roofs...

 "....we try to listen at the public hearing. The people come, try to voice their opinion. That's why we have a public hearing, not to pick and choose which ones we want to accept and which ones we want to throw out...."

Some supervisors said a majority of those at the hearing were builders. Bob Martini says Oneida county's shoreland protection ordinance has been weakened over time..

"....40-some changes. Every one of them producing less protections for lakes. We have the second-most lakes of any county in the state. We have the worst shoreland protection ordinance, the least protective...."

A builder and landscaper, Tom Handrick of Minocqua, said the majority of property owners want the boathouses. He took issue with Martini's point of weak environmental protection...

" about environmental destruction to our lakes. Where is it? I work on a lot of lakes up here. I haven't seen it. I wish you guys(who) keep talking about environmental destruction and it to us...."

Crescent Lake resident Joel Knutson took issue with the idea that buildings that close to the lake would have minimal impact...

".....but it potentially has major impacts that are well-known..... that can affect all users of the lake.

Knutson handed out a photoshopped picture of Crescent Lake with each home having a boathouse.

The board decided to refer the matter back to committee to get more input, with an eye toward another public hearing.