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Town of Arbor Vitae, WI
Vilas County
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[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Arbor Vitae 10-3-2001 by Ord. No. 2-01. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Plan Commission — See Ch. 72.
Building construction — See Ch. 124.
Property maintenance — See Ch. 229.
Signs — See Ch. 263.
Zoning — See Ch. 325.
A. 
The Town of Arbor Vitae does not have legal authority to mandate compliance with these design review standards which are advisory in nature; however, an applicant for a building permit or the applicant's representative is still required to meet with the Plan Commission and participate in the process of design review as a prerequisite to obtaining a building permit. The Plan Commission's agreement with or approval of the design is not a prerequisite to obtaining a building permit, yet, in community spirit, the Plan Commission would like to meet with the new business developer to encourage planned and orderly growth.
B. 
The review duties included in this chapter are delegated by the Arbor Vitae Town Board to the Town of Arbor Vitae Plan Commission by Chapter 72, Plan Commission, §§ 72-5 and 72-6.
C. 
Applicants need to submit a completed application and eight copies of the required information listed in § 268-6 to the Town Clerk 14 days before the regularly scheduled public meeting of the Plan Commission.
D. 
The Town Clerk distributes one complete set of documents to each Commission member at least seven days before the Commission's public meeting.
E. 
The Arbor Vitae Plan Commission meets on the second Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the Town hall. Additional/special meetings can be scheduled at the discretion of the Chairman.
F. 
The applicant is available to present the project, ask or answer questions regarding the applicability of the standards to the project, and to receive the input of the Commission members. The final decision regarding the design is left to the applicant's discretion. After participation in the design review process, the applicant will be given clearance certification to proceed with obtaining a building permit.
G. 
The applicant must begin and substantially complete a project which has been reviewed within two years from the date of the completion of such review. If the project is not completed within that time, the commission may elect to have the applicant participate in the design review process as a condition of renewing the Town building permit.
H. 
For large or complex projects, visually sensitive areas, or in situations in which the applicant is uncertain about the intent of the design review standards, the applicant is encouraged to schedule a pre-application review.
The Town of Arbor Vitae Planning and Zoning Committee was appointed in 1994 by the Town Board to develop long-range plans for the community. Prior to embarking on a comprehensive land-use planning effort, broad public input on community growth and planning issues was obtained by use of a survey distributed to all property taxpayers in the township. The design review standards are intended to provide guidance to prospective developers as to the community's preferences with regard to the design of new developments or significant reconstruction of existing developments. This chapter was drafted by the Arbor Vitae Plan Commission and approved by the Arbor Vitae Town Board of Supervisors in October of 2001.
A. 
To encourage growth and development that effectively blends in with the natural backdrop of woodlands, lakes, streams, and wetlands characteristic of this area of northern Wisconsin's northern highlands which has broad appeal to its residents and visitors.
B. 
To safeguard property values, protect public and private investments, and promote high-quality commercial, multifamily and industrial development which is consistent with the area's natural backdrop.
C. 
To encourage well-designed clustered highway commercial development and to discourage highway strip development.
D. 
To encourage landscape design which complements the natural landscape, improves the general appearance of the township and utilizes locally native plant species.
E. 
To establish a formal review process and open dialogue with the Town.
A. 
Design review is required prior to the issuance of a building permit for new commercial, multifamily and industrial development or for exterior wall and roof alterations to existing commercial, multifamily and industrial development not previously subject to design review.
B. 
Design review is required prior to site clearance activities, tree removal, grading, excavation or filling.
A. 
Open space/natural resources design standards. The intent of this section is to ensure that adequate open space and natural resources are incorporated into design solutions which blend with the natural backdrop of the area.
(1) 
Where open space, natural resources or topographic patterns contribute to the beauty and utility of the area, they should be incorporated into the design of the new development.
(2) 
There is no set percentage of the parcel which is required to be maintained in green space (this does not include impervious surface areas such as buildings and parking areas). Generally, 20% should be considered as the minimum level and 30% to 40% is desirable. Of most importance is the location and quality of the green space which is incorporated into the design of the new development rather than absolute percentages.
(3) 
To the extent possible, existing topographic grades should be incorporated into the design; however, when grading or contouring the site, the finish grades should appear natural to the site and surrounding area to protect the natural resources and adjacent properties.
(4) 
Roadside trees are very important to buffer the impact of development and the design should strive to minimize their removal.
B. 
Relationship of building to site design standards. The intent of this section is to incorporate into a site plan the design standards for commercial, multifamily, and industrial development. In particular, the site plan should integrate natural resources, buildings, parking, and landscaping into a functional and aesthetic solution which tends to blend with the natural backdrop.
(1) 
The majority of green space allotment should be located to provide resource protection, transitions between adjacent sites, and as a visual transition between public roads and the building, or parking lot. The use of landscape buffers should be provided between incompatible land uses which necessitate strong visual separation. A minimum buffer width of 20 feet with landscape plantings of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs is desirable for adequate screening.
(2) 
Buffering of mechanical equipment, trash dumpsters, loading areas, and open storage areas should be accomplished in a manner which visually screens them from roads and surrounding developed parcels. Suitable screening types include opaque wood fences and a mixture of dense evergreen/deciduous landscaping.
(3) 
It is highly desirable to place all newly installed utility services, and service revisions necessitated by exterior alterations, underground.
(4) 
Parking areas should be carefully designed to fit the site and with sensitivity to location, size, and perimeter screening. This is especially critical in order to minimize the visual impact of the development on the natural backdrop. To accomplish this, the designer should consider the following points:
(a) 
In cases where quality forestland exists, existing trees should be preserved between the parking area and the right-of-way.
(b) 
When options for side-yard and rear-yard parking do not exist, front-yard parking (between the building and public road) should have an effective setback.
(c) 
New developments with large parking space requirements should strive for a design that locates parking in an area with the least visual impact, including perimeter landscaping and interior plant islands, maintaining existing vegetation where appropriate, and incorporating several smaller parking areas to meet parking space requirements.
C. 
Building design standards.
(1) 
Building architecture should complement, rather than dominate, the forested setting that characterizes Arbor Vitae. Therefore;
(a) 
"Wood" architecture is strongly encouraged.
(b) 
Earth-tone colors with visually compatible color accents are strongly encouraged.
(c) 
Roofs with darker earth-tone colors are encouraged.
(d) 
Building designs using styles, colors, and settings of an earlier era should be carefully evaluated to ensure that they complement the forested setting.
(2) 
All sides of a structure should receive full design consideration. If a facade is used, it should relate well to the rest of the building.
(3) 
When a development requires the use of a large structure or structures, the designer is encouraged to diminish the monolithic ("big box") appearance of elevations and roof lines by breaking up building sections, or by the use of such elements as variable planes, projections, bays, dormers, setbacks, or other changes in the roof line.
(4) 
The signage and lighting fixtures should be compatible with the architectural design.
(5) 
The clustering of smaller, visually compatible, commercial structures is encouraged rather than a single large structure.
(6) 
Designers of new buildings are urged to avoid:
(a) 
The look of franchise architecture.
(b) 
Buildings which advertise by appearance (i.e., storage buildings).
(c) 
Buildings which demand visual attention by the use of bold colors and materials that do not blend well with the natural backdrop.
D. 
Landscaping design standards. The intent is to here provide a landscape design which preserves existing natural vegetation and incorporates additional locally native plants which complement the plant communities and ecosystem of the area. The aesthetic intent is to improve the appearance of all areas through incorporating green space into the development in ways that harmonize and enhance the natural and built environment, and respect the principles of naturalistic landscaping. The landscape design plan should indicate:
(1) 
A dominant visual character for the landscape design which blends well with the site's natural environment.
(2) 
The size, species, and location of plant materials to be retained or placed on the site.
(3) 
The percentage of the site which will be maintained in green space, and the green space setback distance between the highway property line and the building and/or parking area.
(4) 
As appropriate, planting concepts which meet the needs of:
(a) 
Front yard plantings.
(b) 
Building entry plantings.
(c) 
Building corner plantings.
(d) 
Side yard plantings.
(e) 
Screening of storage or service areas from public view.
(f) 
Parking lot perimeter plantings.
(g) 
Larger parking lot interior plantings.
(h) 
Plantings related to signage.
(i) 
Where buffers are needed, plantings which will create an effective screen within three years.
(5) 
The planted size of shade trees should be not less than 1 1/2-inch caliper (diameter measured six inches above ground) and eight feet in height; coniferous (evergreen) trees should be at least four feet in height; shrubs should be of good nursery stock and provide effective landscape development within three years of planting.
(6) 
Plant material which provides interest in structure, texture, color, and its ultimate growth pattern. Trees and shrubs which are exotic cultivars and provide highly showy aesthetic patterns, such as red or bronze summer foliage or variegated leaf patterns, are discouraged.
E. 
Exterior lighting design standards. The intent of the exterior lighting design standards is to provide lighting with the necessary location, placement, and intensity to accomplish its desired function (without producing extraneous light pollution off site) by integration of the lighting into the overall design.
(1) 
All exterior lighting should balance on-site needs for safety, security and aesthetic effects with off-site impacts from public view.
(2) 
All exterior lighting should be part of the architectural and landscape design concept in location and type of lighting.
(3) 
In general, the height of exterior lighting should not exceed the height of the building to which it relates.
(4) 
The height, location, and direction of lighting should be designed and located in such a manner as to be shielded from the direct view of the highway user, and shielded above to reduce night sky illumination.
(5) 
Exterior lighting shall be designed in a manner which does not permit an adverse effect upon neighborhood properties, especially residential property.
(6) 
Preferred sign lighting concepts are those which provide direct illumination from a shielded light source, rather than interior sign lighting.
F. 
Signage design standards. See Chapter 263, Signs.
G. 
Highway commercial and cluster development design standards. As stated in § 268-3, Statement of intent, the standards set forth in this chapter are intended to provide design review guidelines and standards which protect against the negative aspects of highway "strip" commercial development and encourage development which adheres to the principles of nodal or cluster commercial development, lessening the visual and environmental impact on the area. Highway "strip" commercial development tends to blight the roadside and generally lacks the design qualities which are desired.
The intent of this section is to provide the Commission with sufficient information to have a clear understanding of how well a project conforms to design review standards.
A. 
Application. A completed application form supplied by the Town is required.
B. 
Documentation. As appropriate, drawings and other documents, which illustrate the features of the design in scale and relationship to project components. These need to be documented in a manner which can be understood clearly by the Plan Commission. What documentation is necessary, will be determined by the Commission.
(1) 
A site plan and specifications are required which contain the following information (this may require a separate site plan, landscape plan, and architectural plan):
(a) 
Scale (e.g., one inch equals 20 feet) and North arrow.
(b) 
Address of site/development name/owner/designer.
(c) 
All property lines.
(d) 
Mapped two-foot contour intervals of existing and proposed grades for that portion of the site which will be altered by development and mapped contours as a transition into the undisturbed portion of the site. Spot elevations should be used in combination with proposed contours to indicate the elevation of retaining walls, steps, water flow direction, etc.
(e) 
Proposed access to the site, on-site parking stalls and adjacent roads. Also, indicate traffic flow (with directional arrows) and directional signage, if any, that is considered essential.
(f) 
Indicate areas in which existing vegetation will need to be removed.
(g) 
Locations of existing (to remain) and proposed buildings for the site, and all buildings on adjacent sites which are within 50 feet of the development site's boundaries. Also, the external dimensions of buildings and distances from the property lines.
(h) 
Accurate location of all proposed landscaping. This may require a separate landscaping plan. Please indicate plant species, tree size (diameter measured six inches above ground), and height of proposed conifer trees.
(i) 
The location, height, size, and design of all signage.
(j) 
Surface material proposed for parking, storage, and access drives.
(k) 
Exterior lighting concept and location.
(l) 
Location and screening proposal for all dumpsters, storage areas, and service areas.
(m) 
The location of all present and proposed utility systems, including.
[1] 
Septic systems.
[2] 
Water supply.
[3] 
Telephone, cable, or electrical systems (indicate aboveground or underground).
[4] 
Storm drainage systems (drain lines, culverts, catch basins) and direction of surface water flow for the developed portions of the site.
(n) 
Basic dimensions of buffers and setbacks.
(o) 
Approximate percentage of parcel in green space (natural and landscaped) and also the percentage in impervious space (including buildings, parking, surface storage, and drive access)
(p) 
Provisions for handicapped persons under the requirements of the A.D.A.
(2) 
Complete exterior elevations of all proposed buildings and existing buildings if they are joined to a new development.
(a) 
Exterior elevations of all sides of the building to show architectural detail.
(b) 
Appropriate scale drawings (usually 1/4 inch equals one foot).
(c) 
All signs that are to be mounted on the building.
(d) 
Designation and type of material and color to be used on the exterior.
(3) 
Material samples need to be presented at the Commission meeting, including color and material type for walls and roof.
C. 
Discretionary information. In certain situations, somewhat less information may be required than that which is indicated in Subsection B. What information is required for design review is entirely of the Commission's choosing. In situations where developments are large or complex, or are in environmentally sensitive areas, or are in visually sensitive areas, the Plan Commission may require additional submission material in order to provide a complete understanding of the nature of the proposed project. This may include, but is not limited to:
(1) 
Site photographs depicting the site and its relationship to adjacent sites.
(2) 
A landscape plan showing all existing natural land features, trees, forest cover, and water sources, and all proposed changes to these features, including size and type of plant material. Water sources will include ponds, lakes, streams, floodplain and drainage retention/detention areas.
(3) 
Sites with steep slopes or unique natural features may require mapped contours at less than two-foot intervals.
(4) 
Location, species of trees, and condition for forested areas undergoing new development.
(5) 
Architectural renderings of perspectives and elevations in full color.
The intent of this chapter is to have full support, cross-listing, and integration among the appropriate Town and county Codes. This is especially important among this chapter, Chapter 263, Signs, the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, and the Vilas County General Zoning and Shoreland Zoning ordinances.
A. 
Nothing in this chapter shall supplant, alter, replace, or amend in any way existing zoning or sign requirements, construction codes, or other criteria, as established by the Town, county, or state for purposes of zoning, signage, or building permit application.
B. 
In the event of any changes, alterations, or deviations from the project's original design review during the county application process or thereafter which would require a revised building permit, such changes need to be resubmitted to the Commission for design review consideration, and as necessary, a clearance certification prior to obtaining a revised building permit.
A. 
The intent of the appropriate design review elements (natural resources, site design, building design, landscaping, lighting, and signage) is that they will be maintained in continued good appearance to sustain an overall high quality. Even the very best initial designs can be compromised by improper and/or inadequate maintenance. Such maintenance problems decrease property values and have a negative impact on the entire Town. Therefore, it is a necessary function of design review, to be concerned about continuing maintenance. For some design elements, it will start with the selection of appropriate materials which can sustain weather and demand low levels of upkeep. For other design elements, annual maintenance may be needed. For still others, such as landscape plants, careful upkeep is essential and if plants fail, replacement will become necessary. The accumulation of debris, trash, and rubbish needs to be avoided.
B. 
Developments which have undergone the design review process are expected to maintain and/or improve the property appearance, as judged by the design review criteria, throughout the active life of the development.
If any section, subsection, sentence, clause, or portion of this chapter is for any reason held to be invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, the remainder of this chapter shall not be affected.
Unless specifically defined elsewhere in this chapter, the following definitions are provided to clarify the commonly used terms.
ARCHITECTURAL COMPATIBILITY
The aesthetic design of a building or group of buildings which includes the site design, landscape development and signage which blends in with the natural backdrop and complements rather than dominates a forested setting.
BIG BOX DESIGN
Buildings which present a large monolithic appearance of frontages and rooflines and otherwise lack the features judged desirable by this site design review chapter.
BUFFER PLANTINGS
An area of land identified on a site plan, in which landscaping is used to provide a transition between use areas to effectively reduce the environmental, aesthetic, and other impacts of one type of land use upon another.
CLUSTERED HIGHWAY COMMERCIAL
A development pattern in which uses, buildings and parking are grouped or "clustered" rather than spread along highways.
COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT
For the purposes of this chapter, it includes the full range of uses identified in the Vilas County commercial zoning district.
DESIGN REVIEW STANDARDS
A series of design activities, listed under § 268-5, which describe the standards by which new development will be judged for appropriateness as defined by this chapter.
FORESTLAND
The existing native plant community which includes groundcover, shrubs, and trees.
FRANCHISE ARCHITECTURE
Buildings which follow the prototypical corporate design standards and present an appearance which is repeated without regard to regional, local, and site appearance conditions.
INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT
The full range of industrial land uses recognized in the Vilas County zoning ordinance.
LANDSCAPING
Any combination of living plants (such as ground cover, grass, shrubs, trees) and nonliving landscape material (such as rocks, pebbles, sand, mulch, fences or pedestrian paving materials).
MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT
Equipment, devices and accessories which may be used for heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and similar purposes and, without appropriate screening or design, can create an adverse visual impact.
MULTIFAMILY
For the purposes of this chapter, it includes apartments, condominiums in which multiple units are located within the same building, townhouses and other forms of attached or higher density housing. Single-family residences and duplexes are not included under design review.
NATIVE PLANTS
Any plant species indigenous to the Town of Arbor Vitae. Plant species indigenous to areas outside the township and introduced by humans are not normally considered native vegetation.
NATURAL LANDSCAPE DESIGN (NATURALISTIC LANDSCAPING)
A planting concept in which the choice of species and placement provides an aesthetic appearance of a native plant community or looks natural.
PLAN COMMISSION
A commission established by the Town Board to conduct assigned responsibilities in land use planning which includes design review.
PLANNING AND ZONING COMMITTEE
An ad hoc committee appointed by the Town Board in 1994 to develop overall long-range plans for the Town of Arbor Vitae. The Planning and Zoning Committee was dissolved upon the appointment of the Plan Commission.
SCREENING
A structure or planting which conceals from view of public ways the area behind such structure or planting.
SITE PLAN
A plan prepared to scale, showing accurately and with complete dimensioning, the boundaries of a site and the location of all buildings, structures, uses, and principal site design features proposed for a specific parcel of land.
STRIP HIGHWAY COMMERCIAL
A linear "strip" of development which tends to front along well-traveled roads, extending inward for one parcel, and generally designed with high vehicular access, excessive signage, limited landscaping, franchise or uncoordinated architecture, and area primarily developed for auto uses.
TOWN
Refers to Town of Arbor Vitae.