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Mequon OKs plan to encroach on environmental corridor

Move not without precedent in the city

Sept. 11, 2012

Mequon - The city of Mequon will modify the final plat restrictions for Eastwyn Bay subdivision in order to allow a property owner to encroach into an environmental corridor along Lake Michigan and adjacent to the Donges Bay Gorge.

The Common Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a request from property owners Scott and Laura Humber to amend the restrictions on the plat after a positive recommendation Monday from the Planning Commission.

The area was originally classified as a primary environmental corridor by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission in 1991, based on factors such as vegetation and topography, Assistant Director of Community Development Jac Zader said. According to a staff report, a primary environmental corridor is defined as an area of significant natural resources at least 400 acres in area, two miles in length and 200 feet in width.

As recommended by SEWRPC, the final plat for the Eastwyn Bay subdivision included language prohibiting any land-disturbing activity in the corridor.

Staff worked with the property owners to consider alternate options, Zader said, including seeking a variance to the front yard setback. However, the Eastwyn Bay Homeowners' Association indicated they would prefer the home encroach into the corridor, contingent upon creation of a management plan to mitigate impacts to the remaining environmental area, the staff report said. A management plan prepared by BHE Environmental has been approved by the association and will be incorporated into its covenants and restrictions.

Not the first to encroach

The Humbers already have identified a buyer for the 1.64-acre site they wish to build on at 519 E. Eastwyn Bay Drive, Scott Humber told the Planning Commission. A portion of the home and primarily a patio at the rear of the property would encroach into the corridor.

"What does infringe into the corridor really mean?" Mayor Curtis Gielow questioned.

He expressed concern about whether the encroachment would involve building in wetlands or removing specimen trees.

Zader said that would not be the case, and the development would still need to abide by the specimen tree ordinance. The approach is similar to what was done in the Wildwood Preserve subdivision to the south of Eastwyn Bay, he said, where seven homes were built entirely in the environmental corridor.

"If this was something that would have come forward today, we probably would have handled it a little bit differently with restrictions and flexibility, like we did with Wildwood," Zader said.

Members have to OK plan

The homeowners' association bylaws must still be modified in order to allow the home to be built within the corridor. Sixty-seven percent of the homeowners would be required to sign off on the proposed amendment in order to change the bylaws, Zader said.

Humber said the homeowners' association board has expressed unanimous support for the plans.

SEWRPC also is aware of the plans for the Eastwyn Bay property, Zader said. Although it makes recommendations, he explained, SEWRPC does not typically have regulatory authority to stop development in an environmental corridor - an issue that has not been uncommon in Mequon.

"We have had other homes along the lake that have to deal with this environmental corridor issue," Zader said. "It's a fairly common restriction that we try to at least maintain the intent of SEWRPC's recommendations."

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