Good neighbor policies are not always easy

NEIGHBORS – SOMETIMES IT’S HARD to live with one, sometimes it’s hard to be one, but they’re something all of us have to deal with in one way or another.

Finding ways for neighbors of all kinds to get along and be good neighbors is a never-ending challenge – especially for local governments.

Too often, they’re asked to step into unresolved disputes and disagreements between neighbors and find some kind of resolution – usually never to any party’s complete satisfaction. It’s often a thankless task.

The conflict can be over an individual’s use of their property, their rights in that property and the conflict with the wishes of their neighbors.

That was what faced the Elkhart Lake Village Board last week when a rezoning request for a property on Sharpe’s Drive came to them.

In this case, one resident wanted to rezone their property to multifamily in order to rent extra living spaces above an existing and a planned new garage.

This came in conflict with the village’s previous rezoning of the entire Sharpe’s Resort/Sheboygan Bay area of the village to single-family residential in keeping with the predominant nature of the neighborhood as part of their new master plan for the village.

The petitioners were seeking a return to their earlier multi-family zoning to allow them to rent their apartment spaces – a request that was supported by some of their neighbors but apparently opposed by a larger number of neighbors.

In the end, the board voted to uphold the design of their master plan and keep the property single-family in conformity with the rest of the neighborhood. But there were indications that the rezoning request might come back to them in another form or even be taken to a different venue.

Meanwhile, several local villages are struggling with the issue of so-called unsightly properties.

In both Adell and Cascade, the village board has received complaints about what some have called unsightly properties and seeking to have the village address the complaints by requiring cleanup or improvement.

The problem that they and many other local governments struggle with is the issue of what constitutes unsightly and how to define that. It’s part of the old conundrum that one person’s junk is another person’s treasure, one person’s ugly is another person’s beautiful – or at least acceptable.

Local governments struggle to define what is unsightly – unlike a well-known Supreme Court definition of obscenity, they can’t just say they’ll know it when they see it – and what they can and should do about it.

It’s not an easy challenge and, again, one that is guaranteed to leave probably almost no one completely happy with its outcome.

Making good neighbors isn’t easy and it can’t always be done by legislation or fiat, but it’s still something that local governments are all too often asked to do – just one more sometimes thankless task they face.


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