Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's orders granting the City of Whitehalls' motion to dismiss the Town of Lincoln's action challenging the City's annexation of a portion of the Town, holding that the court of appeals erred in limiting the grounds on which the Town may challenge the annexation. On appeal, the Town argued that the decision of the court of appeals was based on the erroneous classification of the petition as one for direct annexation by unanimous approval even though the annexation petition lacked the required signatures of all landowners. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the annexation petition was not a petition for direct annexation by unanimous approval; and (2) because the limitations on annexation challenges set forth in Wis. Stat. 66.0217(11)(c) pertain only to petitions for direct annexation by unanimous approval, those limitations did not apply in this case. View "Town of Lincoln v. City of Whitehall" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court sustaining the the Board of Review for the Town of Delafield’s reclassification of two lots of land owned by Appellants from “agricultural land” to “residential”, holding that the two lots at issue were entitled to be classified as agricultural land as a matter of law. In reversing the circuit court, the court of appeals determined that a business purpose was not necessary for land to be classified as agricultural land for property tax purposes and that the assessor’s determination of the appropriate classification was driven by his erroneous understand of the law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a business purpose is not required for land to be classified as agricultural land for property tax purposes; and (2) the two lots at issue were entitled to be classified as agricultural land. View "Peter Ogden Family Trust of 2008 v. Board of Review for the Town of Delafield" on Justia Law

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In this longstanding dispute over which adjoining landowner must pay to construct and maintain partition fencing between their properties the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals, holding that the City of Watertown is responsible for conducting a statutorily-prescribed procedure for resolving fence-related disputes. Wis. Stat. 90.03 assigns responsibility for partition fences to all adjoining property owners. Chapter 90 contains a detailed procedure for quantifying costs and allocating them amongst the adjoining owners (the Enforcement Procedures). Plaintiffs brought this complaint against the City asserting that Chapter 90 authorizes cities to engage Chapter 90’s Enforcement Procedures to determine and locate the cost of constructing and maintaining the fencing. The circuit court granted declaratory relief for Plaintiffs. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Chapter 90 unambiguously authorizes cities to administer the Enforcement Procedures. View "White v. City of Watertown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s order dismissing Petitioner’s complaint against the Village of Sister Bay alleging that some summer concerts held in a public park were a public and private nuisance, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in failing to view each concert as a new nuisance prompting a new notice of injury period; but (2) Petitioner’s written notice of injury was not timely filed. On appeal, Petitioner asserted that it should not be barred from bringing future nuisance actions against the Village because it failed to complain within 120 days as required by Wis. Stat. 898.80(1d)(a) about a noise nuisance from the date the first concert was held in 2014. The Supreme Court held (1) contrary to the decision of the court of appeals, each concert alleged to be a nuisance constitutes a separate event for purposes of filing a written notice of injury; but (2) Petitioner’s written notice of injury, which was not served within 120 days after the date of the last concert alleged to be a nuisance, was not timely filed. View "Yacht Club at Sister Bay Condominium Ass’n, Inc. v. Village of Sister Bay" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the conclusion of the circuit court that Appellants’ one-acre parcel of property met the statutory requirements for the transfer of a cemetery to the Town of Forest, holding that Appellants failed to prove that the parcel was a cemetery, and therefore, the parcel was not subject to the transfer mechanism set forth in Wis. Stat. 157.115(1)(c). Appellants filed a petition asserting that their one-acre parcel was a cemetery where they believed their relatives were buried, that the parcel was neglected or abandoned, and that the Town should manage the parcel as a town cemetery pursuant to section 157.115(1)(c). The circuit court agreed and granted the petition. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the parcel was not a cemetery, and therefore, the section 157.115(1)(c) cemetery transfer mechanism was not applicable. View "DeWitt v. Ferries" on Justia Law

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A right to visibility of private property from a public road is not a cognizable right giving rise to a protected property interest. Adams Outdoor Advertising Limited Partnership brought a takings claim against the City of Madison, asserting that its property was taken when the City constructed a pedestrian bridge over the Beltline Highway that blocked the visibility from the highway of the west-facing side of Adams’ billboard. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, concluding that Adams failed to demonstrate a cognizable right underlying its asserted protected property interest. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Adams argued that a taking occurred because the City deprived it of all economically beneficial use of the west-facing side of its billboard. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Adams’ taking claim failed. View "Adams Outdoor Advertising Limited Partnership v. City of Madison" on Justia Law

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The short-term rentals of Defendants’ property did not constitute “commercial activity” under the restrictive covenant that encumbered its property. Defendants purchased property in a subdivision and began renting it to vacationers on both short-term and long-term bases. Several neighboring property owners brought suit, claiming that a restrictive covenant that encumbered all lots in the subdivision precluded short-term rentals of property. The circuit court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs and enjoined Defendants from further short-term rentals. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the term “commercial activity” in the restrictive covenant is ambiguous; and (2) as narrowly interpreted by the Court, the term “commercial activity” does not prelude either short-term or long-term rentals of Defendants’ property. View "Forshee v. Neuschwander" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the Building Permit Rule (Rule) extended to land identified in a building permit application as part of a project upon which no actual construction was planned. Golden Sands Diary, LLC obtained a building permit for seven farm structures. Its building permit application identified the building site as 100 acres and its total acreage as 6,388 acres, on which it sought to operate a farm. After Golden Sands filed its building permit application, the Town of Saratoga enacted a zoning ordinance seeking to prohibit agricultural uses such as those proposed by Golden Sands. Golden Sands argued that the Rule extended to all the land identified in its building permit application, and therefore, it had a vested right to use all of the property for agricultural purposes. The circuit court concluded that the Rule extends to all land identified in a building permit application. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Rule applies only to building structures and not to use of land. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Rule extends to all land specifically identified in a building permit application; and (2) therefore, Golden Sands had a vested right to use all of the property for agricultural purposes. View "Golden Sands Dairy LLC v. Town of Saratoga" on Justia Law

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When a foreclosure action brought on a borrower’s default on a note has been dismissed with prejudice, and the lender has not validly accelerated payment of the amount due under the note, claim preclusion does not bar the lender from bringing a subsequent foreclosure action based upon the borrower’s continuing default on the same note. After Borrower defaulted on a note, Lender filed suit seeking to foreclose on the property securing the note. The circuit court determined that Lender failed to present sufficient evidence to prevail in its foreclosure action and dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice. Later, Bank, the entity servicing Borrower's loan, sent Borrower a notice of intent to accelerate payment of the note. Borrower did not cure his default, and Bank filed a complaint initiating the instant lawsuit. Borrower moved to dismiss, arguing that the lawsuit was barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion. The circuit court did not apply claim preclusion to any default alleged to have occurred after judgment was entered in the earlier lawsuit. The Supreme Court affirmed this conclusion, holding that claim preclusion did not bar the second lawsuit because the lawsuit alleged new facts giving rise to a new and subsequent default and a different transaction than that presented in the first foreclosure action. View "Federal National Mortgage Ass’n v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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The classification of real property for tax purposes is based on the actual use of the property, and an injunction prohibiting agricultural use of a residentially-zoned property, which is based on a restrictive covenant, does not control the property’s tax assessment classification. However, the record before the Board in this case contained no evidence that the property was used agriculturally within the meaning of Wisconsin tax law. Donald Thoma and Polk Properties LLC (collectively, Thoma) challenged the Village of Slinger’s 2014 property tax assessment for land Thoma attempted to develop into a residential subdivision. The property previously operated as a farm and received an agricultural classification for tax assessment purposes. Thoma and the Village later entered into an agreement that contained a restrictive covenant prohibiting Thoma from using the land for agriculture. The Village then obtained an injunction prohibiting any agricultural use on the property. The Board voted to uphold the assessor’s assessment, which the assessor reached by changing the use classification from agricultural to residential. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board’s decision upholding the tax assessment was lawful and supported by a reasonable view of the evidence; and (2) the circuit court did not err in denying Thoma’s request to vacate the original order. View "Thoma v. Village of Slinger" on Justia Law