Plain language trumps in January appellate court decision re shoreland zoning (recommended for publication).

In Propp v. Sauk County Board of Adjustment, 2009AP209, Evelyn Propp began construction of a deck on her lake house within the shoreland setback area.  She was given a violation and proceeded to apply for special zoning permission under Wis. Stat. 59.692(1v) and a corresponding county ordinance.  These ordinances permit a structure to intrude into the setback area under under certain conditions, one of which is “The total floor area of all of the structures in the shoreland.”  Wis. Stat. 59.692(1v)(b).  Although the total structure of the deck had more than 200 square feet intruding into the setback area, Ms. Propp removed enough of the floorboards of the deck to bring it within 59.692(1v).  The county argued that “floor area” should mean the entire footprint of the structure, not just the actual floor.  Relying party on Websters 3rd Dictionary, the court decided the word floor as found in the statute was unambiguous, did not include the support structure of the deck but only the actual floor surface area, and found for Ms. Propp.

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