Many residents who have lived in Muskego long enough know that its image of a quiet bedroom community with a distinct rural nature has been changing in recent years.
Tuesday night's Plan Commission meeting underscored that in an equally subtle way, as the commission discussed what to do with exclusive agricultural (EA) zoning.
Generally, farming homesteads have qualified for EA zoning, which allowed them to get state agricultural preservation tax credits. However, as property owners have wanted to sell off portions of their land, many have opted for A-1 (agricultural) zoning, which allows them to do so, and also keeps them as "conforming."
City Planner Jeff Muenkel explained that very few residents were interested any more in the EA zoning, and new restrictions and regulations to earn the tax credit by the state and county made it "nearly impossible" for them to qualify for it.
The bottom line is that there would need to be at least 1,000 acres of contiguous land to be committed to farming for at least the next 15 years in order for tax credits to be applied.
"There are farms in the west central portion of the city that have enough land, but you would need at least 15 owners to work together to come up with enough area to qualify for the credit," Muenkel said.
The takeaway is that Muskego's once-rural face has given way to development, resulting in smaller farms. In addition, land that is farmed is often leased to transient farmers, so the family living on the land isn't always the power behind the plow.
Continuing EA zoning would have also required the city to adopt new text to define it under the new state regulations, Muenkel explained.
As the majority of residents have already opted for the more flexible A-1 zoning, the commission ultimately voted to remove the EA zoning.
The recommendation will move to the Common Council to approve.