Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Conveyance of land for highway purposes granted an easement, not fee title

A state appeals court has rejected the town’s argument that private landowners did not meet certain acreage requirements for development because the landowners’ predecessors-in-interest transferred fee title, not an easement, in land designated for a highway.

Appellate Court Opinion

Landowners with a 35 acre parcel were not permitted to build because of a zoning ordinance that requires 35 acres for a dwelling site.  If the parcel did not include land granted for a highway, it would be less than 35 acres.  The Court of Appeals held that the highway grant was an easement which did not reduce the size of the parcel.

Although the landowners won this round, is there not reason to question the sensibility of requiring 35 acres for a home site?  Most of us live on lots smaller than 35 acres.  A home with a well and a septic system is virtually self-contained with respect to its water and sewage.  The technical question should be how much land is needed given the soils and geology for a well and septic system to operate properly.  The answer is almost certainly far less than 35 acres in Wisconsin.

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