Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tiny waterfront lot sparks Supreme Court showdown

...At the heart of Murr v. Wisconsin, the controversy is the 1-acre lot next to the cabin. It's vacant, except for a volleyball net. There's a tree-filled bluff on the side opposite the river. Murr's sister, Peggy Heaver, calls it the "problem" lot. The siblings want to sell that prime piece of riverfront property to help pay for work on their cottage. It's pricey to keep it up and pay the taxes, and they want to raise the building to protect it against periodic flooding when the river rises. Past floods have caused extensive damage, and Murr points to the high-water mark on a pillar in the front of the cabin. In 2004, the family decided to sell that vacant property. They were told they couldn't. The Murrs' parents bought the adjacent 1.25-acre parcel in 1963 -- three years after buying the plot with the cabin -- as an investment. But environmental regulations that took effect in 1975 required a total area of at least an acre to develop, and a county ordinance that requires subtracting wetlands and floodplains from the total land area meant the Murrs' vacant lot was too small to develop. The ordinance has a grandfather clause allowing single-family residences to be built on lots created prior to 1976, but only if the property isn't under the same ownership as an adjacent lot. Because the Murr family owns both parcels, that clause doesn't apply. The ordinance also prevents the Murrs from selling the vacant lot unless they combine it with the lot under their cabin, which they don't want to do. So the Murrs found out they couldn't sell their "problem" lot, and they couldn't build on it. If anyone else had owned the vacant lot, however, they would have been able to build...more

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