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These floating toilets are the type that would be placed along the river in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway if a bill introduced by Sen. Sheila Harsdorf is adopted by the Wisconsin Legislature. <i>Submitted photo</i>

Harsdorf introduces bills for river toilets, tax credits

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Floating toilets on the St. Croix River, development restrictions around an airport in Pierce County, and tax credits for dairy producers are among the issues addressed in bills introduced Oct. 28 by Sen. Sheila Harsdorf.

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Each of these bills has been referred to committee. Although the Legislature is no longer in session, the hope is that they will be acted on in the next scheduled floor session that begins in January, said Harsdorf, R-River Falls, Monday.

Senate Bill 262, which would allow the National Park Service to place a pier with a floating toilet along the river in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, has been referred to the Committee on Natural Resources and Environment.

SB-265, relating to local airports and authority to enact aerial approach ordinances, has been referred to the Committee on Transportation and Elections. This bill was cosponsored by Assembly members Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, and Warren Petryk, R-Eleva.

SB-260, which would allow members of a dairy cooperative to claim manufacturing facility investment credits in the next taxable year, was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, and Higher Education.

Floating toilets

SB-262 would create an exemption to general permit requirements and allow the National Park Service to place a pier with floating toilets in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials asked her to introduce this bill, said Harsdorf.

"There's a real problem with people using the islands (in the St. Croix River) for restroom facilities," said Harsdorf, pointing out that people resort to other options when there are no bathrooms.

Several years ago, the Hudson Rotary clubs attempted to raise money and get permission to build a picnic shelter and restrooms at the end of the old toll bridge dike road.

By the summer of 2006, Hudson had secured DNR approval and a $100,000 grant for the shelter and restrooms.

According to a Hudson Star-Observer report at the time, DNR workers were pleased that the city was providing toilet facilities for boaters and other users of the sandbar beach and shared the city's concern that people were polluting the river by using trees and bushes as toilets.

But as the scope of the project grew, so did concern about the cost and about law enforcement in the area, and that project stalled.

SB-262 specifies that the pier will contain "a floating toilet facility that meets technical specifications approved by the National Park Service for floating toilet facilities." The pier would be owned and operated by the Park Service and placed along the federally owned shoreline.

Red Wing Regional Airport

SB-265 addresses concerns raised by Wisconsin municipalities and would give local governments a say in restrictions for aerial approaches to an airport owned by an out-of-state municipality, said Harsdorf.

The Red Wing Municipal Airport is one of few airports in the country located in a different state from which it is owned. In 1946 the city of Red Wing, Minn., bought 147 acres between Hager City and Bay City in Wisconsin for the airport. Over the years, the airport has been enlarged and hangers, a terminal and maintenance buildings constructed.

According to the airport's website, the runway is now 5,000 feet long and 20,000 to 30,000 aircraft a year take off or land there.

Under current law, a municipality from an adjoining state that owns an airport in Wisconsin has the same rights and duties, including the right of eminent domain, that would apply to a Wisconsin municipality.

Currently the municipality that owns the airport can protect its aerial approaches. Those protections can include "adopting an ordinance regulating, restricting, and determining the use, location, height, number of stories, and size of buildings and structures and objects of natural growth in the vicinity of the airport (within three miles of an airport...)," according Wisconsin's Legislative Reference Bureau.

This bill would take away the right of the adjoining-state operator to regulate or restrict buildings and other objects near the airport.

"The local people were concerned that they may not have anything to say about the land use decisions in Wisconsin," said Harsdorf, adding that this was brought to her attention by officials in the local towns and Pierce County.

She said the towns and county want to be part of the process.

The city of Red Wing is looking to create an airport zoning overlay district that would control land use in an area in a three-mile radius of the airport, said Pierce County Land Management Director Andy Pichotta.

He said the map would accommodate a 7,000-foot-long runway so the area involved is even larger than it might first seem.

Also Red Wing is working with a model zoning ordinance that goes farther than Wisconsin zoning.

The new ordinance would create three zones, said Pichotta. Nothing would be allowed right off the end of the runway, the second zone would be less restrictive, and the third zone would have even fewer restrictions.

Pichotta said there are plans to eventually expand the runway to 7,000 feet, which would mean obtaining rezoning and a conditional use permit from the affected Wisconsin municipalities, and that's not likely to happen.

"It's interesting that they want to rezone for that even though it might be difficult to get (authority to extend the runway)," he said.

Still, said Pichotta, the height restrictions in the proposed Red Wing ordinance could affect the area's large businesses, the village of Bay City and other potential development.

"The closer you are to the airport, the lower (the height limitation) gets," said Pichotta.

He said the height restriction could limit the towers Thomas & Betts uses to test the power poles it makes, and the village of Bay City could run into problems if it needs to replace its water tower.

The potential density and use standards could also be problematic, said Pichotta. He said the Red Wing ordinance could prohibit the construction of structures such as churches that attract lots of people, and the density standard would allow no more than one house per three acres.

The tough thing to accept about this is that a municipality from another state is unilaterally imposing zoning restrictions on the residents of this state, said Pichotta.

"The city of Red Wing has a good thing going," he said, noting that Red Wing residents aren't affected by the inconveniences of living next to an airport nor do they have to deal with the property tax consequences.

Co-op investment credits

Current law allows dairy cooperative members to claim the dairy manufacturing facility investment income tax credit only for the year in which the co-op pays to modernize or expand.

SB-260 would allow the member to use the tax credit the following year.

Harsdorf said she introduced this bill after she was contacted by a cooperative.

She said that by the time the co-op and its members get notice of the tax credit, the patrons have already filed their tax returns. Harsdorf said members could get the credit by filing an amended return, but usually the amount involved is too small to justify the additional expense.

"Generally it just isn't worth it," she said.

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Judy Wiff
Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.
(715) 426-1049
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