Because of an amended Cooperative Law Enforcement Agreement between Sawyer County Board and the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, many of those cited for non-criminal, civil violations on the LCO reservation will have their cases processed through the tribal court.
The amended agreement, which applies to both tribal and non-tribal members, was approved by the County Board at its monthly meeting Thursday, March 18.
Each year the tribe and the county have jointly signed an agreement as a condition for the Sawyer County Sheriff's office to receive state funding from a distribution of tribal compact gaming dollars, approximately $50,000, to support a county deputy working on the reservation. For the 2021 agreement, the LCO Tribal Governing Board insisted that non-criminal citations on the reservation be processed in the tribal court, versus automatically being referred to Sawyer County Circuit Court.
However, the amended agreement cites two "specific instances" where cases would go directly to circuit court:
• When civil citations are accompanied with a criminal complaint.
• The first operating while intoxicated (OWI) citation when a LCO tribal officer is unavailable to process the citation.
The agreement also allow for those under the two exceptions to request a transfer to tribal court: "Both of these exceptions shall not impair the offender's ability to request a transfer to tribal court for any civil violation, including a first OWI (which is not considered a criminal complaint in Wisconsin)."
Supervisor Dale Olson asked Supervisor James Schlender, chair of the Public Safety Committee, who is also a lawyer and former tribal judge, what Sawyer County Circuit Judge John Yackel had to say about the agreement. Schlender said he could not speak for the judge.
Schlender then explained that if a person is citied on the reservation the information is referred to the tribal prosecutor and then the case goes before the tribal judge for determination.
"The person citied has the opportunity to then either accept the jurisdiction of the tribal court or have it referred out to Sawyer County, in which case there's a for-cause hearing that would happen and then the court would make a decision on the transferability," Schlender said.
Olson said he was concerned about adding more cases to Judge Yackel's docket, but Schlender said the agreement would actually alleviate Yackel's burden by having more cases heard in tribal court.
"If I'm arrested for speeding on the reservation, I have the choice of either being tried at the tribal court or I can ask that my case be moved to Sawyer County Court?" asked Supervisor Bruce Paulsen, a non-tribal member.
Schlender said when a cited person comes before the tribal judge for the initial appearance to enter a plea, that is when a request could be made to transfer the case to circuit court. The tribal judge would make a determination, and
Schlender also noted Judge Yackel would have to agree to accept the case.
Schlender added the right for a change of venue is one available to any accused person.
LCO Tribal Judge Elaine Smith also addressed the board, saying, "I think that this amendment to the law enforcement agreement is very important because it really stresses more cooperation between the law enforcement, people of both the county and LCO," she said.
"I think that, as you all know, we have a terrible meth and heroin epidemic, not only just on the reservation but throughout the whole county and country also dealing with it. And those effects on the children of the reservation, as well as the children of the county are just astronomical, very heartbreaking. So I'm really in favor of this. And I really hope that we will do our best to work together and strengthen the law enforcement for all the citizens of the county."
In a voice vote, the full board approved the amended agreement.
In another matter, the full board also approved a memorandum of understanding with the Tribal Governing Board concerning a $50,000 allocation per year for the next three years (up from $25,000 per year previously given) from the tribe to support the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee (CJCC), which promotes alternatives to incarceration.
The board also approved an amendment to the CJCC's bylaws making the LCO tribal judge a standing member of the committee.
In a 4-1 vote, the Sawyer County Zoning Committee on Friday, March 19, recommended to rezone two parcels off Highway 77 in the Town of Hayward for a campground.
The committee recommended approval even though six adjoining landowners wrote letters against the proposal and technically the rezone resulted in spot zoning, a zoning district unlike neighboring properties.
Previously, the Town of Hayward had approved the request. Next, the rezone request, with recommendation, goes to the full Sawyer County Board of Supervisors for final approval.
Matthew Sink of Sinkhole Investments requested one parcel of 18.9 acres adjoining Highway 77 zoned recreational residential 1 (RR1) and another parcel of 40 acres behind the 18.9 acres zoned agriculture 1 (AG1) to be rezoned recreational residential 2 (RR2) for the purpose of creating a campground, which in Sawyer County are allowed only in RR2 districts.
However, Sink did not apply for a conditional use permit (CUP) needed as a requirement to operate a campground in a RR2 district.
The rezone parcels are located along the south side of Highway 77, just east of the American Birkebeiner bridge that spans the highway. The parcels sit alongside a portion of the highway that has two eastbound lanes.
Spot zoning, land use
Sawyer County Zoning Administrator Jay Kozlowski said the rezone of the parcels to RR2 "could be viewed as spot zoning" because no nearby parcels, outside of a small one next to the Birkie bridge, are zoned RR2.
"But spot zoning is not necessarily illegal because such zoning is not necessarily inconsistent with the purposes for which zoning ordinances can be passed," Kozolwski said. "However, rezoning should be consistent with long range planning and based upon considerations which affect the whole community. Therefore, spot zoning should only be indulged where it is in the public interest and not solely for the benefit of the property owners requesting the result."
In the town's comprehensive plan, Kozolwski said, the land use map designated the area as "rural preservation" for the purpose "to protect existing farm and forestry operations from encroachment by incompatible uses, and preserve wildlife habitat and open spaces. In other words to preserve the rural character of this area."
Kozolwski also noted several other points: the town's land use maps can be amended; there are several "residential structures in the area," especially to the east, west and north, and soil surveys show the parcels not being "prime agriculture land" mostly "due to slopes" or the hilly nature of the parcels.
Of the eight letters sent to adjoining landowners, six were returned and all opposed the rezone.
Shaun and Rachel Kreyer said the campground would lower their property value by introducing "more litter and noise pollution" and would raise visibility concerns for traffic off a busy Highway 77.
Austin Schrock objected because he anticipated increased traffic, including off-road vehicles, and increased noise and activity, especially at night, and he had concern over lowering property values.
"The neighborhood has a relatively low population home density and a campground with the resulting influx of people and activity would be abnormal and would have negative effects on the neighboring homes," Schrock wrote.
James and Patrick Duffy expressed concerns over spot zoning possibly having "a detrimental impact on the surrounding parcels," and they also expressed concern that nearby land used by family members for hunting could result in "unauthorized people being in the woods" during the hunting season presenting safety concerns.
"The rezoning change requested by Sinkhole Investments LLC to build a campground would be a benefit to them. It would be a detriment to us by decreasing the value of our property because of being adjacent to a campground," wrote Joel and Lana Johnson. "It would create trespassing problems and noise issues. They may also promote illegal ATV/UTV use along Highway 77 right of way to gain access to Trail 31 located at the top of O'Brien Hill."
"I definitely object to the proposed campground," wrote Rosalie Bender. "At this location it is very hilly and in order to accommodate tents, trailers, campers, major recreational vehicles, major land would need to be leveled therefore by completely altering the landscape of the natural area."
Linda Zillmer, a landowner in the Town of Edgewater, said the Birkie bridge area was originally meant to be zoned RR1 but had been published as RR2 for the rezone hearing and was approved as RR2 even though she warned it would set a negative precedent as spot zoning.
Kozlowski concurred with Zillmer that the original intent for the bridge area was RR1.
Zillmer also said in Sawyer County there is a long tradition when land is taken out of agriculture for tourism use that nearby agricultural activities are often opposed by those conducting nearby tourism.
One neighbor, Stephen Hahn, who lives one mile east of the proposed campground, said he supported the rezone because it would provide better access to Hatchery Creek trailhead, which, he described as "small and confined."
"The close proximity pretty much across the street from Hatchery Creek trailhead, I believe, would act as a relief, allowing people to park down there and access trails without having to increase the congestion currently at Hatchery Creek."
Sink later said he would try to gain access to the Birkie bridge for connection to the Hatchery Creek trail system, but in the immediate future his plan was to provide a shuttle from his campground to Hatchery Creek.
"I just wanted to make a note that campgrounds have always been a part of our county since I've been little," said Supervisor Stacey Hessel. "Mr. Paulsen brought up last month that we are a tourist community, so I just wanted to be mindful that these campgrounds align with our economic development, align with tourism opportunities."
"Basically, I hear all the concerns of the neighbors and I kind of understand where they're coming from," Sink said. "I do have intent to build a campground. However, it's not quite the demon that they're wanting to propose it to be on this particular property. It's a very perfect location for a campground because of the fact that it won't disturb the landscape."
Sink said the 40 acres behind the 18.9 acres is where the campground would be located and he noted it was an area where traffic from the highway couldn't be heard. He also noted there are two eastbound lanes near where the proposed entrance, offering a slow lane for recreational vehicles accessing the site.
Sink also noted the proposed campground's proximity to the Birkie bridge, to nearby Hatchery Creek Park on the north side of Highway 77 and to ATV Trail 31 to the east on county forest land. Sink said he would pursue an easement over county forest to connect to the ATV trail.
"Trail access is something none of the other campgrounds in the area seem to really cater to," Sink said. "Most of them are for lake people, for river people, all about fishing. You know, there's no real good central hub for people who want to get on the Hatchery Creek biking trails, hiking trail and for the ATV trails."
Sink also said the campground would be seasonal and wouldn't be open during hunting season.
"I just kind of want it to be a fun place for everybody to enjoy," he said. "It's going to create some jobs for Hayward without a doubt."
Sink was asked what would be the "overriding social benefit" for the campground.
"For one, it will create several high paying jobs for the area," Sink responded, "so that would benefit some of my friends and neighbors. It also provides a service to the community if we can get the appropriate trail accesses . . . so the idea is it's going to encourage more tourism, more people on the trails. That's what the goal is."
Sink added the campground would be mostly used by owners of recreational vehicles (RVs).
"In my experience those big rigs come in and a lot of them stay there over just years and years," supervisor Bruce Paulsen said.
Sink said his plan is to place limitations on how long visitors can stay, which would be spelled out in his future CUP request.
Paulsen said he would be more confident if the rezone was accompanied by a CUP application so he could know specifics of the campground plans.
Kozlowski said he had talked with legal coun sel Rebecca Roeker and both concurred there is no legal obligation to present a CUP request with a rezone.
Kozlowski added it would be helpful to the committee to have more specific plans for the campground CUP, but he also noted if the rezone wasn't approved and if the applicants had spent thousands of dollars securing plans for the CUP the applicant would have spent all those dollars for naught.
Supporting Kozlowski, Roeker noted that often applicants do submit a CUP with a rezone to give the committee a better idea of future plans, but there is no legal obligation to do so.
"So I would encourage this committee to not base a rezone decision on whether an applicant submits or does not submit that conditional use permit application in conjunction with the rezone," she said.
County Chairperson Tweed Shuman said he was in favor of rezoning for a campground, but was also concerned whether a new campground would have to follow existing county ordinances or those currently being revised.
Both Kozlowski and Roeker said the parcel would be subject to the ordinances in place when the full county board approves the rezone.
When the question was called, Paulsen made a motion to deny the rezone, but his motion failed for lack of a second.
Shuman then made a motion to approve the rezone and it was seconded and passed with Shuman, Hessel, Dawn Petit and Ron Buckholtz all voting "yes" and Paulsen voting "no."
Sawyer County will receive approximately $3.2 million as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law March 11 by President Joe Biden, County Administrator Tom Hoff announced Thursday, March 18, at the Sawyer County Board meeting.
"What we know at this point is that Sawyer County will be allocated directly from the federal government $3.2 million to be used for specific purposes in response to the pandemic," he said. "We don't know exactly what is going to qualify within these rules, and the U.S. Treasury is working on providing guidelines that will help us figure out the qualified expenditures or the revenue recovery that's qualified under this plan."
Hoff said the county would receive half of the $3.2 million within 60 days of the act's signing.
"So within two months, we'll see half of those funds delivered to the county and we have until Dec. 31, 2024 to expend those funds for the purposes outlined within the plan," he said. "This plan is a little bit different than the previous plan that had been passed down in that it could include revenue recovery, if we did have revenue that we were missing because of the pandemic. And these funds are also being allocated directly to the county. The previous one was allocated to the state, and then the state decided how much counties could get."
Hoff said he based his estimate on a spreadsheet he was sent.
He added that each of the towns in the county and the City of Hayward also will receive an allocation. It's presumed the villages also will receive an allocation.
Hoff added that additional federal funds from the rescue plan also will go directly to the state and the state in turn could distribute those dollars to local municipalities as well.