State of Wisconsin ex rel. Michael Anderson, Petitioner-Appellant,
Town of Newbold, Respondent-Respondent.
from an order of the circuit court for Oneida County No.
2017CV55: PATRICK F. O'MELIA, Judge.
Stark, P.J., Hruz and Seidl, JJ.
Michael Anderson owns shoreland property in the Town of
Newbold (the Town) that he sought to divide into two lots.
The Town denied Anderson's proposed division on the
ground that the two lots would fail to comply with the
Town's applicable minimum shoreland frontage requirement.
The issue before us is whether the Town may lawfully enforce
its shoreland frontage requirement, which it enacted under
its subdivision authority, even though an identical shoreland
frontage requirement would not be enforceable had the Town
enacted it under its zoning authority.
We conclude that the plain language of the applicable
subdivision enabling statute gave the Town authority to enact
its minimum shoreland frontage requirement. Thus, even though
our state legislature has removed shoreland zoning authority
for towns through the enactment of Wis.Stat. §§
281.31 and 59.692 (2017-18),  we affirm the circuit court's
order upholding the Town's decision.
We recognize in reaching our decision that there is
undeniable tension between the legislature's decision to
restrict towns' shoreland zoning authority while at the
same time granting towns the power to enact a shoreland
frontage requirement under their subdivision authority. We
conclude, however, that in the absence of clear legislative
intent demonstrating that the zoning enabling statute takes
priority over the subdivision enabling statute, it is not the
role of this court to resolve that tension. That task lies
within the purview of the legislature alone.
Anderson owns a lot in the Town that has 358.43 feet of
shoreland frontage on Lake Mildred, and thus is classified as
shoreland property. See Wis. Stat. §§
59.692(1)(b), 281.31(2)(d). In 2016, Anderson submitted a
certified survey map to the Town that proposed dividing his
current lot into two lots. The two proposed lots were to have
shoreland frontage of 195 and 163.43 feet, respectively.
The Town's planning commission considered Anderson's
proposal at its November 3, 2016 meeting. According to the
minutes of that meeting, the commission voted to recommend
that the Town deny the request "because it does not
comply with Town of Newbold On-Water Land Division Standards
13.13[.02 ("the Subdivision Ordinance")] which
requires a minimum 225 foot lot width at the ordinary high
water mark" on Lake Mildred. One week later, the town
board adopted this recommendation and thereby denied
Anderson sought certiorari review of the Town's decision
in the circuit court. The court ultimately affirmed the
Town's authority to enforce the Subdivision Ordinance and
therefore upheld the Town's denial of Anderson's
proposed subdivision. Anderson now appeals.
On an appeal from a judgment on certiorari, we review the
actions of the town board, not the circuit court. Lake
Delavan Prop. Co., LLC v. City of Delavan, 2014 WI.App.
35, ¶5, 353 Wis.2d 173, 844 N.W.2d 632. Certiorari
review requires us to consider whether the board: (1) kept
within its jurisdiction; (2) acted according to law; (3)
acted in an arbitrary, oppressive, or unreasonable manner;
and (4) whether the evidence was such that the board might
reasonably have made the order or determination in question.
Here, the sole issue is whether the town board acted
according to law. To resolve this issue, we must interpret
portions of Wis.Stat. §§ 59.692 and 236.45.
Statutory interpretation presents a question of law that we
review independently. Wood v. City of Madison, 2003
WI 24, ¶11, 260 Wis.2d 71, 659 N.W.2d 31');">659 N.W.2d 31.
When interpreting a statute, our objective "is to
determine what the statute means so that it may be given its
full, proper, and intended effect." State ex rel.
Kalal v. Circuit Court for Dane Cty., 2004 WI 58,
¶44, 271 Wis.2d 633, 681 N.W.2d 110. Our analysis begins
with the plain language of the statute. Id.,
¶45. Statutory language is given its common, ordinary,
and accepted meaning, except that technical or
specially-defined words or phrases are given their technical
or special definitional meaning. Id. In addition,
statutory language must be interpreted in the context in
which it is used; not in isolation but as part of a whole; in
relation to the language of surrounding or closely-related
statutes; and ...