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WI Supreme Court Accepts Anderson v. Town of Newbold

The Wisconsin Supreme Court accepted three new cases for review Tuesday, including Anderson v. Town of Newbold (2018AP547) which challenges a town’s use of subdivision authority to limit shoreline property rights.

Wisconsin law limits the authority to create shoreland zoning ordinances to counties, meaning towns generally cannot create them. But Wis. Stat. § 236.45 does allow towns to create ordinances about the division–or subdivision–of land.

In this case, a riparian landowner (Anderson) proposed to divide his shoreland frontage property on Lake Mildred into two parcels, but the Town of Newbold denied his request, stating it conflicted with a town subdivision ordinance requiring a minimum width for property bordering the lake.

Anderson sued the town on the grounds that the subdivision ordiance was really a disguised, illegal zoning ordinance.

The Court of Appeals ruled for the town, stating:

“We conclude…in the absence of clear legislative intent demonstrating that the zoning enabling statute takes priority over the subdivision enabling statute, it is not the role of this court to resolve that tension [between them].”

On appeal, the Wisconsin Supreme Court considers two issues:

  1. Are the Town of Newbold Land Division Standards set forth in ordinance 13.13 an exercise of a subdivision authority granted under Wis. Stat. 236?
  2. Is the Legislative intent in enacting 2015 WI Act 55 to set statewide shoreland standards, and to not defer to municipalities?