St. Croix River Family takes Land Use Fight to US Supreme Court

May 27, 2016 06:46 PM

A metro family has taken their land rights fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Murr family St. Croix River cabin has been in the family for nearly 60 years. The cabin sits on one of two lots William and Dorothy Murr purchased in the 1960's. The first lot, was to build a cabin on in 1960 and the second, as an investment property. Before their deaths, the Murr parents passed the parcels along to their kids.

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In 2004, the family made a decision to sell the investment property to raise funds to improve the cabin. That's when they found out that a zoning change passed in 1975 would prevent them from doing that. The legislation is part of Wisconsin Law NR118 that states: "rules are necessary to reduce the adverse effects of overcrowding and poorly planned shoreline and bluff area development, to prevent pollution and contamination of surface waters and groundwaters and soil erosion, to provide sufficient space on lots for sanitary facilities, to minimize flood damage, to maintain property values, and to preserve and maintain the exceptional scenic, cultural and natural characteristics of the water and related land of the Lower St. Croix riverway in a manner consistent with the national wild and scenic rivers act, the federal Lower St. Croix river act of 1972 and the Wisconsin Lower St. Croix river act."

The family patriarch, Michael Murr, is a high school government teacher. He and his siblings were "flabbergasted" to learn of the rule because they say they had been paying property taxes on the two separate properties for decades. Murr told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS " if the county is combining two parcels into one, it seems like they should tell us and they keep sending us separate tax statements. That property there with nothing on it, they keep saying is a $400,000 piece of property, why because someone can develop it. We've paid taxes for years on a property we just found out we couldn't sell."

The Murr's are now represented by the non-profit Pacific Legal Foundation. Unhappy with the outcome in Wisconsin courts, the case now heads to the US Supreme Court. Attorney's expect their case to be heard in October with a decision in spring of 2017.

Remzy Bitar, the attorney for St. Croix County, said "we believe our presentation to the court will lead to a successful outcome."


Tom Durian

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