Wisconsin lawmakers introduce bills loosening property regulations

“I think where we’re regulating today is just too far, too much over the line,” he said. “So we’re going to, with these proposals, ratchet that back a little bit.”

Jarchow’s proposals would give landowners more power to sell or develop what are called “substandard lots.” Those are pieces of land that met zoning requirements when they were first parceled off, but don’t any more. Right now, that can make them impossible to sell or build on.

Donna Murr’s family joined Jarchow at a state Capitol news conference to introduce the plan. She said her family has been wanting to sell some of their land along the St. Croix River, south of Hudson, for years, but can’t because it’s a substandard lot.

“We would like to be able to sell it, we would like to be able to develop it separately,” Murr said. “It’s our choice, it’s our right as property owners to be able to do that.”

The Murr family took their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. They lost in a 5-3 decision earlier this year.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said “a reasonable land-use regulation” was intended to preserve the St. Croix River and surrounding land. He said the Murrs had not suffered a regulatory taking of their property or been “deprived of all economically beneficial use of their property.”

The St. Croix River Association opposes the new bills, saying they’ll undermine scenic protections on the river. In the long-running legal dispute with the Murrs, St. Croix County said that granting the family an exception to laws protecting the river would weaken the government’s ability to guard against overdevelopment anywhere on the St. Croix.

The “Homeowners Bill of Rights” proposal also would make it easier for people to use land for things it isn’t zoned for. Right now, that requires permits that Jarchow and state Senate sponsor Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, argue can be hard to get.

“That can really lead to great uncertainty for property owners,” Tiffany said of the permitting process.

The bills have yet to be scheduled for public hearings.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune contributed to this report. Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard in the Twin Ports at 91.3 FM or online at

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