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Earlier today you received a Call to Action from WRA Chairman Peter Sveum, asking you to contact your legislator about the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights. This Bill contains a series of bills to protect the rights of property owners from zoning changes by municipalities following the purchase of real estate. The legislation provides protections to homeowners as well as commercial property owners through regulatory reform and new proposals.
Vested rights – Clarifies that an application for a development permit is grandfathered from any changes to local ordinances at the time the application is submitted even if the local government has multiple permit requirements for the development. Current law, grandfathers the application for a development permit from changes to local ordinances if the application must be approved by multiple local governments, but not multiple approvals by the same local government. In doing so, the legislation makes it crystal clear that property owners, like the ones in McKee v. City of Fitchburg, will not have the rules of the game unfairly changed after they begin the development approval process.
Right to Challenge Property Tax Assessments – Codifies the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent decision in Milewski v. Town of Dover (2017 WI 79) by restoring the fundamental right of all homeowners to challenge property tax assessments they believe to be incorrect, regardless of whether they deny assessors entry into their homes. In doing so, the provision will allow property owners to protect their right to privacy, without waiving their right to due process.
In addition, the bill includes a provision that extends the timeline (no later than 7 days before the first meeting of the board of review) for businesses to provide the property tax assessor with information about the businesses’ income and expenses. Currently, if the business doesn’t provide this information to the assessor before the open book meeting, the business owner is prevented from challenging their assessment.
Accordingly, this provision does the following:
- Allows property owners who deny assessors entry into their personal residence to challenge their property tax assessments before the board of review and circuit court.
- Requires assessors to provide written notice to property owners of their right to deny assessors entry into their homes
- Clarifies that denial of entry into a home cannot be the sole reason for increasing an assessment
- Extends the amount of time a business owner has to provide information about the business’ income and expenses to the assessor.
Conditional use permits: the proposal would create a statutory framework for conditional use permits (CUPs) and provide additional certainty for property owners by establishing a more fair and reasonable approval process. Currently, no statutory framework exists for CUPs. Moreover, property owners often experience subjective decision making and tremendous uncertainty with respect to the CUP process. Finally, the proposal would overturn the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent decision, AllEnergy v. Trempeleau County, which held that property owners are not entitled to a CUP if they satisfy or agree to satisfy all the conditions and requirements established by the local government. Local units of government often require various types of development to obtain, specifically, the proposal contains the following provisions:
- A definition of conditional use;
- Requiring decisions regarding CUPs to be based upon “substantial evidence.” “Substantial evidence” means evidence that reasonable persons would accept in support of a conclusion. Public comment based solely on personal opinion, uncorroborated hearsay or speculation does not constitute substantial evidence.
- Requiring all conditions and standards to be reasonable and measurable.
- Requiring local government to grant the CUP if the property owner satisfies or agrees to satisfy all CUP conditions and requirements.
is working closely with legislators and stakeholders to ensure that the industry’s interests are protected and enhanced.