Browse Publications Technical Papers 2009-01-2245
2009-05-19

Zoning Without Permitted Uses - Case Study of Wisconsin Supreme Court Ruling: Town of Rhine versus Bizzell/Manitowoc Area Off-Highway Vehicle Association 2009-01-2245

The property owners, an off-highway motor vehicle club, purchased an abandoned quarry to ride off highway motorcycles (OHM's), snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles (ATV's). The neighbors complained about the noise and tried to stop further riding of recreational vehicles in the quarry. As a result, the town filed a lawsuit against the property owners, citing several zoning code violations, including the fact that the property owners did not obtain a conditional-use permit, which the zoning ordinance requires for any use of the property.
This paper reviews the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling finding the zoning ordinance unconstitutional because there were no permitted uses of the property, just several conditional uses. As written at that time, owners of property within this zoning classification could not use their property for any purpose (recreation, hunting, etc.) unless they applied for and obtained a conditional-use permit. But no legal documented criteria had been established for obtaining such a permit. A zoning ordinance that prohibits any use of property without a conditional-use permit and that sets no criteria to obtain that permit was found to place an unreasonable financial burden on the property owner and tremendous uncertainty in the real estate market.
The club also negotiated the immediate removal and relocation of a section of the motocross track/trail in close proximity to the nearest neighbor's residence.
Although not part of the courts action the informal negotiation between the club and its closest neighbor did relieve a major noise issue. The paper also examines the process of the track relocation in order to minimize the impact of off highway vehicle (OHV) sound levels at the property line.

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