Stafford Rosenbaum’s Government Law and Government Relations teams continuously stay apprised of the latest developments in Wisconsin municipal law. Below, in no particular order, are the top 10 municipal law developments of 2015.

1. Sign regulation. In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 576 U.S. __ (2015), the United States Supreme Court held unconstitutional a sign ordinance differentiating between ideological, political, and temporary directional signs. Overall, the Court’s decision provides helpful clarity to municipalities looking to establish enforceable sign ordinances. For more on this case, see here.

2. Repeal of prevailing wage law. 2015 Wisconsin Act 55, the biennial budget, repeals the prevailing wage law that applies to local government public works projects as of January 1, 2017.

3. Zoning; short-term rentals. In Heef Realty & Investments, LLP v. City of Cedarburg Board of Appeals, 2015 WI App 23, 361 Wis. 2d 185, 861 N.W.2d 797, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that the Cedarburg Board of Appeals erred in interpreting the city’s single-family dwelling zoning ordinances to preclude short-term rentals. Because the city’s ordinance did not create time restrictions (and instead required that only one family would use each home at a time), the court held that property owners using their homes for short-term rentals did not violate the city’s zoning ordinance. For more on this case, see here.

4. Zoning; conditional use permits. In Oneida Seven Generations Corporation v. City of Green Bay, 2015 WI 50, 362 Wis. 2d 290, 865 N.W.2d 162, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the city’s decision to rescind the conditional use permit (CUP) initially granted to Oneida Seven. The court determined that the council adequately identified the basis for rescinding the CUP. However, the court evaluated each of the claimed misrepresentations in the record in detail, ultimately finding no evidence to support a conclusion that Oneida Seven’s statements regarding emissions and hazardous materials were misrepresentations.For more on this case, see here.

5. Home Rule; preemption. In Black v. City of Milwaukee, 2015 WI App 60, 364 Wis. 2d 626, 869 N.W.2d 522, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that Wis. Stat. §66.0502, which essential prohibits residency requirements in local governments, did not preempt the city’s ordinance requiring its employees to reside within the city. For more on this case, see here.

6. Special assessments. In First State Bank v. Town of Omro, 2015 WI App 99, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that a municipality properly used its police power to build roads and levy special assessments against the land benefitted after a developer defaulted on its obligation to build the roads. For more on this case, see here.

7. Public records. In Journal Times v. City of Racine Board of Police and Fire Commissioners, 2015 WI 56, __ Wis. 2d __, __, N.W.2d __, the Wisconsin Supreme Courtdetermined that the Commission acted with reasonable diligence in providing the requested information to the Newspaper, even though it was not required to do so. Because the Commission acted reasonably and the Newspaper received the requested information, the Newspaper did not substantially prevail and was not entitled to recover attorney fees and costs under the Public Records Law. For more on this case, see here.

8. Fees. In Town of Hoard v. Clark County, 2015 WI App 100, __ Wis. 2d __, __ N.W.2d __, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld a town ordinance assessing a fee for fire protection on county-owned property located within the town. Because the town’s ordinance properly assessed a fee under Wis. Stat. § 60.55(2), the county had to pay for the fire protection provided to its property located within the town. For more on this case, see here.

9. Firearm regulation. In Wisconsin Carry, Inc. v. City of Madison, 2015 WI App 74, 365 Wis. 2d 71, 870 N.W.2d 675, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld a rule adopted by the city transit and parking commission that prohibits riders on city buses from carrying weapons. The commission’s rule was not an ordinance or resolution, and therefore Wis. Stat. § 66.0409, which prohibits local governments from adopting ordinances and resolutions that regulate firearms, did not preempt the rule. For more on this case, see here.

10. Incorporation. In City of Kaukauna v. Village of Harrison, 2015 WI App 73, 365 Wis. 2d 181, 870 N.W.2d 680, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that the statutory notice requirements in § 66.0301(6) were met and found no express prohibition in the law against the village and town sharing services and agreeing to transfer territory. The court upheld as valid a § 66.0301(6) intergovernmental cooperation agreement between the newly-incorporated Village of Harrison and the Town of Harrison, under which the town agreed to transfer nearly all of its lands to the new village and share services.

Thank you to Joseph Diedrich for his assistance in drafting this post.

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