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Van Hollen Issues Informal Opinion On Riverway Zoning Ordinances


MADISON - Responding to an inquiry from Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matthew J. Frank, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen today issued an informal opinion concerning riverway zoning ordinances adopted by counties and towns for the St. Croix Riverway under section 30.27 of the Wisconsin Statutes and chapter NR 118 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code. The Department of Natural Resources exercises statutory supervision with respect to the enactment of such ordinances.


Van Hollen concluded that both counties and towns may enact enforceable riverway ordinances and that the provisions of each ordinance are enforced by the unit of government that enacted the ordinance.


Van Hollen noted that county riverway ordinances are enforceable in all unincorporated areas of a county that are within the St. Croix Riverway, including those towns that have enacted their own riverway ordinances.


Van Hollen also determined that, if both a county and a town enact an enforceable riverway ordinance and there are differences between the relevant provisions of the town's riverway ordinance and the county's riverway ordinance, the landowner must comply with the more restrictive ordinance.


Van Hollen noted that a town and a county could attempt to coordinate the provisions of their respective riverway ordinances in order to eliminate multiple requirements and avoid duplication of effort on the part of landowners and the municipalities involved.


A copy of the original request and Attorney General Van Hollen's formal opinion: