Friends of the Black River Forest v. DNR (Chapter 227 Judicial Review)
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals (District I) ruled Tuesday that the the Friends of the Black River Forest alleged sufficient facts to satisfy a standing inquiry for judicial review under ch. 227
In 2014, Kohler Company, a Wisconsin manufacturing business, approached the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for a land exchange in order to build a golf course. After negotiation, the two agreed that Kohler would deed 9.5 acres of land to Kohler-Andrae State Park in exchange for 4.59 acres of land inside the park and an easement on an additional 1.88 acres for its golf course. The Department of Natural Resources Board approved the land exchange on February 28, 2018.
In response, Friends of the Black River Forest filed a Wis. Stat. Chapter 227 petition seeking judicial review of the land exchange. Kohler Company petitioned to intervene and filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the plaintiffs lacked standing, the land exchange was not a “decision” subject to judicial review under ch. 227, and that the land exchange was a ministerial act that is unreviewable under ch. 227. The circuit court dismissed the case on the standing argument.
Wis. Stat. § 227.52 permits judicial review of“[a]dministrative decisions which adversely affect the substantial interests of any person.”
The Friends of the Black River Forest stated the decision adversely affected them because (among other things), it “permanently eliminates their opportunity to use land” currently available for their enjoyment and would increase noise for local homeowners. The Court of Appeals agreed, finding the “anticipated recreational, aesthetic, and conservational injuries” sufficient to bring the case.
The case returns to the circuit court where the challenge will continue.