180906_ZONING_GR1

DARIEN

Town of Darien officials are considering abandoning Walworth County’s zoning code, but county officials warn the move would require an ordinance overhaul that would have a “very slim” chance of happening.

Darien Town Board members voted 4-1 Tuesday to research pulling out of the code, citing “ropes and hoops” entangled in the county’s zoning process. Breaking away from the code and establishing its own could alleviate headaches for residents, board Chairman Cecil Logterman said.

The county currently holds zoning control over all towns in Walworth County with the exception of the town of Bloomfield. That means residents in the town of Darien must confer with the town board and county zoning agency before zoning changes can be made.

But the process for a town to withdraw from zoning is complex and technical, and it would require a “comprehensive revision of the zoning ordinances,” Walworth County Land Use and Resource Management Director Michael Cotter said.

Because of state statute, a town cannot opt in and out of a county’s zoning code at will, Cotter said. The town of Darien would have the opportunity to exit the code only if the county pursued a massive zoning ordinance revision.

That happened in 2005 when the county board voted to conduct a sweeping zoning revision that would allow towns to bow out. But Cotter said the county didn’t finalize its ordinance overhaul until January 2010—nearly five years later.

Out of the 16 towns in Walworth County, 15 opted into the county’s code at the time. The town of Bloomfield established its own independent zoning ordinances.

Asked what the likelihood of another countywide comprehensive revision would be, Cotter said “very slim.

“It has never been asked of the county since that time, and we don’t have enough pending issues to make a comprehensive revision.”

The only “no” vote Tuesday night on the Darien Town Board came from Daniel Kilkenny, who also sits on Walworth County Board.

He could not be reached for comment.

Other than growing frustrations from residents, it’s unclear why town board members asked town attorney Kim Howarth to gather information on withdrawing from the code.

Representatives from the Birds Eye food processing plant spoke with the Walworth County Zoning Agency in July. The plant has been under scrutiny for a rancid smell emanating from two lagoons that hold factory waste.

The agency questioned the company’s processes for handling the waste and pressed Birds Eye to find a solution.

Logterman said the factory is not associated with the zoning consideration, saying it “has nothing to do” with Birds Eye and that the factory is an entirely separate issue.

“In general, we’re looking at being more friendly with our residents,” Logterman said.

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