Plain Language trumps in January appellate court decision re highway discontinuance (recommended for publication).

In Dawson v. the Town of Cedarburg,2009AP120, the Dawsons had applied to the Towns of Jackson (Washington County) and Cedarburg (Ozaukee County) to discontinue a road.  The two town boards met in a joint session, with five members of the Jackson Town Board in attendance, and three members of the Cedarburg Town Board in attendance.  The vote, along town board lines, was 5 to 3 to discontinue the highway as the Dawsons wished.  The Town of Cedarburg appealed.  In an opinion issued January 6, 2010, in an apparent issue of first impression, the court was faced with the following language in Wis. Stat. 82.21(2): “…the governing bodies of the municipalities, acting together, shall proceed under ss. 82.10 to 82.13.”  Cedarburg contended that this meant each town board must approve the discontinuance, rather than a simple majority of both boards.  The court focused on the words “acting together,” and based on an analogous but unrelated statute and a Minnesota case that they found helpful, decided that “acting together” is plain on its face and requires a majority of both boards, not separate approval by each board.

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