Anderson v. Town of Newbold (Shoreline Zoning & Subdivision Authority)

In Anderson v. Town of Newbold (2018AP547), the Court of Appeals District III held that towns may enact shoreland frontage requirements under their subdivision authority, even though state law prohibits towns from enacting those requirements under their zoning authority.

Wisconsin law prohibits towns from enacting shoreland zoning ordinances (Wis. Stat. § 59.692). However, towns do have authority to enact subdivision regulations under Wis. Stat. § 236.45. The issue before the court in this case was whether the Town of Newbold could enforce a Shoreland Ordinance establishing minimum shoreland frontage requirements.

Plaintiff Michael Anderson argued the Shoreland Ordinance was in actuality an illegal zoning ordinance and thus unenforceable by the town. However, the court found that the town could enforce the ordinance because it enacted the ordinance via subdivision authority procedures under Ch. 236, not as a zoning ordinance.

The court noted the tension its decision creates with the Legislature’s intent in § 59.692 to prohibit towns from regulating shoreland. However, the court said it could not ignore explicit language in Ch. 236 allowing towns to enact subdivision regulations as the town did in this case. The court left it to the Legislature to resolve any conflict between § 59.692 and Ch. 236.