Unique Expansion of Pier in Fontana Denied

Unique Expansion of Pier in Fontana Denied

Club Unique Improvement Corp. v. Wisconsin Dep't of Nat. Res., No. 2020AP902

On September 8, 2021 the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the administrative law judge (ALJ) reversing the decision of the Wisconsin DNR to approve a pier permit to modify and expand the pier located at Club Unique in Fontana, Wisconsin.

Most likely in response to the DNR’s recent desire to swap moorings for boat slips, Club Unique requested that its 7-slip pier be expanded to incorporate 6 additional boat slips as a trade for their 6 moorings. The DNR originally granted the new pier permit.

However, the ALJ, Walworth County Circuit Court and Wisconsin Court of Appeals determined that the creation of new pier slips for non-riparian owners was a new conveyance, despite the prior moorings, and therefore barred by Wis. Stats. § 30.133, which prohibits the “grant by an easement or by a similar conveyance any riparian right in land to another person, except for the right to cross the land” to reach navigable waters. “Similar conveyance” has been defined as any “transfer in excess of 2 years.”

Although not specifically stated in the Court of Appeals decision, the ALJ Findings of Facts, Conclusions of Law and Order included testimony that the mooring buoys were not a vested property right of individual property owners which transferred with the land like existing boat slips. If Club Unique legally structured rights related to the buoys in the same manner as boat slips, then the case may have had a different outcome.

Pier rights and other riparian rights are constantly in flux and contains a myriad of opportunities depending on the facts of each individual case. Whether you are a developer, riparian owner, or non-riparian owner interested in placing a new pier or a neighbor in opposition to same, our office has been assisting clients with riparian rights issues for well over 30 years.

To view the Court of Appeals decision, please follow the link: https://www.wicourts.gov/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqN...

To view the ALJ Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order, please follow the link:

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