Justices to Hear Property Rights Dispute Over Family's Land
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Thread: Justices to Hear Property Rights Dispute Over Family's Land

  1. #1
    Ancient Gaseous Emanation Popeye's Avatar
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    Oct 2007
    Sacramento area, CA

    Default Justices to Hear Property Rights Dispute Over Family's Land

    20 Mar 201

    The Supreme Court could make it tougher for state and local governments to limit development in coastal areas.

    Justices hear arguments Monday in a property rights case that involves a family's effort to sell part of its riverfront land in Wisconsin. The family says conservation rules forbidding the sale stripped the land of its value and the government owes them compensation.

    County officials nixed the sale because regulations treat the family's two lots as a single property that can't be split up. Government officials say it's fair to view the property as a whole.

    More than 100 cities and counties across the U.S. have similar "merger" restrictions that treat two adjacent properties as one if they have the same owner.

    The case has drawn interest from property rights and business groups that say such rules let the government avoid paying landowners for restricting land use. The Constitution requires compensation if government regulations take away a property's economic value.

    The case began in 2004, when four siblings in the Murr family wanted to sell a vacant lot on the banks of the St. Croix River to pay for improvements on a rustic cabin that sits on the parcel next door. Their father had purchased the two 1.25-acre lots separately in the 1960s and had paid taxes separately. The lots were later transferred to the Murr siblings in the 1990s.

    County officials blocking the sale point to regulations passed in 1976 that bar new construction on lots in the area to prevent overcrowding and pollution. A grandfather clause exempted existing owners. But the county won't apply that exemption to the Murrs' empty lot alone, since it is connected to the family's other land.

    The Murrs had viewed the vacant property as a long-term investment and say it has been assessed at $400,000.

    A Wisconsin appeals court sided with the county, saying zoning rules did not take away the property's value because the Murrs could still use both lots as a vacation property or sell them as a whole.

    The county argues that a ruling against it would undermine its ability to minimize flood damage and maintain property values in the area. It argues that the family has treated both parcels as a single lot and says they could build a new home on either lot.

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  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Feb 2013
    New Hampshire


    My .02.
    If I bought a 10 acre parcel, and the building code was a 1 acre minimum to build a house, I could subdivide the land into 10 lots and build 10 houses.
    If I subdivided into 10 lots for the express purpose of building 10 houses, and the code then changed to a 2 acre minimum before I built all 10, I should be grandfathered and allowed to build 10 houses.
    If the code changed to 2 acres before I subdivided, I can only build 5 houses.
    If I bought two separate lots, in separate transactions, they are two lots and can each be sold or built on...UNLESS the jurisdiction has a rule/law that says they are treated as 1 lot if owned by the same person. In that case, as it seems to be in this case, I think the proper way to avoid the problem would have been to will each lot to a different sibling.

  3. #3
    Senior Member NGF Addict!
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    Sep 2012
    Southern Kalifornia


    Perhaps you're noticing that today's "law-makers" have developed a tendency to ignore many laws they themselves may have written beforehand. I suppose it's all a matter of how they "feel" at the time they decide to perform their mischief, theft or oppression.
    Popeye likes this.


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