The Land Use Planning and Zoning Department supports a multitude of programs and upholds federal, state, and local standards. This page has been created to assist in answering questions related to land, its use, and other responsibilities of this Department.
To provide land use services related to Planning, Code Enforcement, Surveying, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Land Records Modernization for the people of Green Lake County, that promotes the public health, safety, and general welfare through well-planned development and responsible stewardship of the land by equitable administration and enforcement of ordinances, regulations, and planning practices.
The Land Use Planning and Zoning Department administers and enforces the County’s land use ordinances, applicable chapters of the Wisconsin Administrative Code, and Wisconsin Statutes. Basic ordinance responsibility covers general zoning, shoreland zoning, floodplain zoning, private sewage, land division, and nonmetallic mining reclamation.
This Department provides assistance for all permit applications, public hearing applications, concerns of violations, and basic land use information. The goal of these services is to promote the use of land in harmony with its neighboring uses and natural resources, and to protect the public’s safety and interest in the location of structures and uses.
Another service offered to the community is assistance to municipalities with creating and executing land use development goals they have locally envisioned. To achieve these goals, land use plans, ordinances, and other applicable regulations are administered, enforced, and updated when necessary. Assistance is provided for review of land divisions and analysis of development proposals affecting land use.
Find information about the governing Committee of this Department through this link.
Matt E. Kirkman – Land Use Planning & Zoning Director
Caleb Edwards – Land Use and POWTS Specialist
Aaron Ogle – Land Use and Shoreland Specialist
Karen Werlein – Land Use Coordinator
Gerald Stanuch – GIS Specialist/Land Information Officer (LIO)
Don Lenz – County Surveyor
In office Mondays, 9:30am-11:30am
Green Lake County adopted our first zoning ordinance in 1957. The current ordinance (Code of Green Lake County) has undergone significant changes over the last sixty years, evolving to keep pace with the new uses and development in our region. Zoning is intended to guide sensible development by keeping similar uses together. Monitoring growth in this way provides cohesion to a community: residential development is grouped near emergency response facilities for safer neighborhoods; minimal traffic congestion occurs as the more intense commercial uses are accessed via intersections regulated by traffic lights; property values are insulated and preserved by maintaining consistency in allowed uses of land. In all, the usability of land in Green Lake County is maximized without unnecessary expansion into the open natural spaces and agricultural areas around which our community is focused.
Of the ten Towns in Green Lake County, six have adopted the County Zoning Ordinance: Town of Berlin, Town of Brooklyn, Town of Green Lake, Town of Mackford, Town of Manchester, and Town of Marquette. The remaining four Towns refrained from adopting general zoning requirements: Town of Kingston, Town of Princeton, Town of Saint Marie, and Town of Seneca. These Towns still have guiding ordinances related to land division as well as development standards for shoreland and floodplain areas, among other regulations.
Land Use Permits
A land use permit is required for any land-disturbing activity, including the placement or alteration of any building or structure, within the zoned Towns or within the jurisdiction of the ordinances this Department administers. These ordinances include the federally-required Floodplain Zoning Ordinance, the state-mandated Shoreland Zoning Ordinance, and the County’s Zoning Ordinance, among others.
A complete Land Use Permit application usually consists of three parts:
1. Completed application form
2. Site Plan rendered to scale
3. Application fee, based on cost of construction for the project. See Page 2 of the permit application for the fee schedule.
Helpful PDF detailing what structures generally need permits, which do not, and what can be placed in setback areas.
The Permit Contacts & Construction Reminders PDF is another document helpful in planning projects in Green Lake County. Listed are contacts for each municipality, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, relevant Green Lake County departments, and contracted Uniform Dwelling Code (UDC) Inspectors for each Town. Access this document from the ‘Downloads’ section (to the left on desktop computers or at the bottom of the page from mobile devices).
The Shoreland Zoning Ordinance (Code of Green Lake County, Chapter 338) is a state-mandated ordinance that applies to property within 1,000 feet of navigable lakes, ponds, and flowages, and within 300 feet of navigable rivers and streams. Like any good compromise, this county ordinance has new allowances for shoreland property owners, as well as new restrictions designed to minimize the negative impact on the natural ecosystems.
As stewards of our natural resources, shoreland property owners help uphold the Public Trust Doctrine, a part of the Wisconsin Constitution that preserves certain natural resources like our navigable waters. This doctrine preserves in perpetuity the public use, enjoyment, and utilization of our waters, declaring all navigable waters as “common highways and forever free”, owned in common by all Wisconsin citizens.
The Shoreland Zoning ordinance has language limiting the impervious surfaces to 15%, or to the percentage existing prior to new construction. For example, many lots on the waterways in Green Lake County have 30% or more of impervious surfaces, so for new projects, property owners may be able to rebuild up to that same existing impervious surfaces percentage with a Land Use Permit.
This policy is intended to account for and offset the impacts of paved, covered, or otherwise compacted areas within 300 feet of the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM). Any structure that prevents the natural infiltration of precipitation is considered an impervious surface, unless it has been otherwise engineered.
Impervious surfaces include decks, patios, walkway paths, graveled areas, driveways and parking areas, homes, garages, sheds, and boathouses, as well as others not listed. Please direct specific shoreland questions to our Land Use Specialists.
Permeable patios, engineered clear stone or infiltration swales, and other infiltration projects like rain gardens can count towards the mitigation requirement, bringing properties into compliance with this standard. Click to download the Treated Impervious Surfaces Policy as a PDF.
One of the new allowances for property owners is the ability to responsibly develop the near-shore area. New boathouses are allowed to be built, as long as the plans meet the ordinance criteria. Download this fact sheet to learn more, and contact our office with remaining questions.
Boathouses in Green Lake County
Here is a document created by the Wisconsin DNR and UW-Extension about designing rain gardens. Click HERE to download.
Useful Links Related to Shoreland Zoning:
Choosing the Right Waterfront Property– PDF
Wet Boathouses and Boathouse Repair Questions – External Link to DNR Website
Piers, Docks, and Wharves – External Link to DNR Website
UW-Extension – External Website has numerous fact sheets, handouts, pamphlets, and books about the importance of shoreline protection
Central Wisconsin Sustainability Newsletter: a collection of local, regional, national, and internationl articles related to subjects that impact sustainability in Central Wisconsin.
Center for Land Use Education: Water – Webpage focusing on water in Wisconsin with a plethora of well-written PDF booklets, videos, and other links
Video Series compiled by the Center for Land Use Education with the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point explaining the major changes to shoreland zoning made by the Wisconsin Legislature in 2015-2016.
Part 1 – 9:30 minutes; focuses on introduction to shoreland zoning and the recent changes to required shoreland lot sizes
Part 2 – 13 minutes; focuses on changes to shoreland setbacks, vegetation protection, and impervious surface standards
Part 3 – 14 minutes; focuses on changes to standards to buildings located close to the shoreline
Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (POWTS)
During this emergency order, many people are limiting travel and utilizing private wastewater treatment systems more. Click HERE to download a fact sheet with tips on how to be kind to the system treating your wastewater, compiled by the Department of Safety and Professional Services staff.
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Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (POWTS), are used for waste disposal systems in Green Lake County in the areas which do not have a public sewer system. Green Lake County administers a program using guidelines and mandates set forth in the Code of Green Lake County Chapter 334 and Wisconsin Administrative Code SPS 381-387. The purpose of the program is to protect our natural resources and to prevent human health hazards with proper construction and maintenance of POWTS.
All property owners with a septic system are required by state law to have the system inspected for pumping at least once every three years. (Chapter SPS 383.52 of the Wisconsin State Legislature)
Is the Grass Greener Over Your Septic System? – PDF detailing how different systems function and longevity tips for your system
Preventing Your System from Freezing – Helpful PDF outlining reasons an Onsite Sewage Treatment System would freeze, what to do if the system does freeze, and how to prevent a future freeze
POWTS Reporting – File Reports Here –Remember to check the right-hand corner at the bottom of the page to verify you are logged in to the system
Green Lake County is required by state statute to maintain and enforce a Floodplain Zoning Ordinance (Code of Green Lake County, Chapter 300). The purpose of the floodplain zoning ordinance is multi-faceted. Per NR 116, the Floodplain Ordinance is intended to: provide a uniform basis for the preparation and implementation of sound floodplain regulations for all Wisconsin municipalities to protect life, health, and property; minimize expenditures of public monies for costly flood control projects; minimize rescue and relief efforts, generally undertaken at the expense of the general public; minimize business interruptions; minimize damage to public facilities such as water mains, sewer lines, streets and bridges; minimize the occurrence of future flood blight areas; discourage the victimization of unwary land and home buyers; and prevent increases in the regional flood from occurring which will increase flood damage and may result in conflict and litigation between landowners.
The County Surveyor’s Office duties and responsibilities are outlined in the Wisconsin Statutes. The documents of the Original Government Survey in the 1830s, and the County Surveyor documents dating back to the late 1840s, along with current land survey documents are all part of the County Surveyor records. All land surveying entities must submit true and correct copies of their surveys to the County Surveyor within 60 days of completion for filing and indexing. All the County Surveyor records are public information and copies of any survey record shall be provided upon request for the appropriate fee or are available through the County’s website at no fee.
Don Lenz – County Surveyor
Office Hours: Mondays, 9:30am-11:30am
Railroad Right-of-Way (some with volume-page)
East county line northwest to Berlin 1918
East county line through Green Lake west to Princeton 1917
Princeton northwest to west county line 1917
East county line through Utley southwest to Markesan 1918
East county line through Utley southwest to Markesan 1980
Markesan lease update
South county line northwest through Dalton to west county line
Unrecorded C&NW merger into Union Pacific
Land Information Office & GIS
“Land information” includes information relating to topography, soil, soil erosion, geology, minerals, vegetation, land cover, wildlife, associated natural resources, land ownership, land use, land use controls and restrictions, jurisdictional boundaries, tax assessment, land value, land survey records and references, geodetic control networks, aerial photographs, maps, planimetric data, remote sensing data, historic and prehistoric sites, and economic projections. Wis. Stats. section 16.967(1)(b)
Gerald Stanuch – GIS Specialist – Land Information Officer (LIO)
Comprehension Plan and Farmland Preservation Plan
A comprehensive plan is designed to serve as a long-range policy guide to the physical development of a governmental unit, in this case, Green Lake County. It reflects the overall “vision” concerning future growth and land use. It establishes the goals, objectives and policy parameters within which local land use operates.
Click to download the most recent Green Lake County Comprehensive Plan (2016) – PDF.
2017-05-16: A proposed rezone (Commercial C-1 to Rural Residential R-4) required a Comprehensive Plan Amendment due to an inconsistency with the Comprehensive Plan’s Future Land Use Map. This Amendment was approved, and the parcel was rezoned.
2017-11-14: A zoning map amendment project changed the zoning of several parcels in each zoned Town. As a result, the Comprehensive Plan’s Zoning Maps needed to be updated. Click to download and view the zoning maps that were incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan under this amendment.
2003 Comprehensive Plan – PDF
Farmland Preservation Plan
This establishes public policy in support of farmland preservation, agricultural development and the encouragement of a healthy agricultural economy. Wisconsin Statutes (Chapter 91) requires a county to develop and adopt a Farmland Preservation Plan in order for landowners in the County to be eligible for the farmland preservation programs offered by the state, including the provision of tax credits to participants.
This plan is part of a continuing effort by Green Lake County to participate in the State’s Farmland Preservation Program in order to encourage a progressive yet sustainable agricultural economy. It is the intent of this plan to guide county decision-makers to make the best decisions for the benefit of the agricultural economy in Green Lake County. Click to download the most recent Green Lake County Farmland Preservation Plan (2016) – PDF.
Text Certification – Order from the State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, certifying farmland preservation plan ordinance text through December 31, 2027
Map Certification – Order from the State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, certifying farmland preservation plan map through December 31, 2026
2017-11-14: A zoning map amendment project changed the zoning of several parcels in each zoned Town. As a result, certain parcels’ classification within the Farmland Preservation Plan’s maps needed to be updated. These Town maps show how these parcels are now classified.
1983 Farmland Preservation Plan – PDF