Supreme Court Will Decide If Family Can Sell ITS OWN PROPERTY

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Supreme Court Will Decide If Family Can Sell ITS OWN PROPERTY

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HUDSON, Wisc. — The U.S. Supreme Court will decide if a family can sell a piece of property that’s been in the family for 57 years.

The decision in a case called Murr v. Wisconsin could impact the rights of property owners all over the country.

William and Margaret Murr purchased a 1 ¼ acre lot in 1960 and built a cabin, and then three years later bought a similar-sized property adjacent to them, the Leader Telegram reported. Three decades later, the couple gave the land to their children. The family subsequently asked the county about selling the vacant lot, but the county blocked the sale because of a rule requiring lots to have one acre of buildable land. Even though the vacant lot is about 1 ¼ acres, its buildable space is much smaller – less than one acre — after deducting the slope and wetlands area, the newspaper reported.

The family had hoped to use the funds from the sale to pay for renovations to the cabin.

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“All along we were receiving a property tax statement for that land, land that the county assessed as buildable property,” their daughter, Donna Murr, told the newspaper. “It was assessed at $400,000 and we paid $4,000 to $6,000 a year on it and didn’t think twice about it, because that’s what we were told it was worth.”

The problem: When her parents bought the land, the vacant lot was considered acceptable for building, but county ordinances later changed.

“An assessor told us then that the extra land was basically worth about $40,000, meaning we lost $360,000 in value because of the ordinance change,” Murr said. “If you do the math, since we owned the property, we paid $78,000 more in taxes than we should have. It just seems so unfair. If we hadn’t gone in, they’d still be assessing us. They told us it was our job to know about the ordinance.”

A group called the Pacific Legal Foundation sued the county and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on the Murr’s behalf, claiming the government had violated the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by taking the Murrs’ property without offering reasonable compensation. Lower courts rejected that argument, prompting an appeal to the Supremes.

“We aren’t going to be allowed to sell the second parcel, unless we tore down the cabin next door,” Murr said on a conference call with reporters. “We were stunned. We couldn’t believe that the government would happily take our property tax dollars for 50 years, and then deny us the basic property rights here.”

If the Supreme Court rules in the favor of the Murrs, it could clear the way for hundreds of similar suits across the country.

“This case has broad implications, because the Murrs are far from alone in confronting this issue,” John Groen, an attorney for the Foundation, told Reason. “The problem of bureaucrats and courts defining the parcel as a whole to include adjoining lots in common ownership presents itself throughout the country.”

What is your reaction? Share your thoughts in the section below:  

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County Bans Sale Of Family’s $698,000 Off-Grid Land — And Refuses To Compensate

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County Bans Sale Of Family's $698,000 Off-Grid Land -- And Refuses To Compensate

A Wisconsin family has had to appeal all the way to the United States Supreme Court to get permission to sell or build on property they have paid taxes on for decades.

The family, the Murrs, are trying to get fair compensation on a rural river-front property that government regulators say they cannot sell. The Murrs claim the land along the St. Croix River is valued at $698,000.

The family actually owns two pieces of land along the river: the vacant lot and an adjacent lot where a cabin resides. Although the family long has considered the two pieces of property separate – they pay separate property bills and have considered the vacant lot an investment property – authorities merged the two against the family’s wishes, and then said they could not split them, Watchdog.org reported.

St. Croix County collected taxes on the lots, separately, for years. The Murrs, in fact, say they paid $78,000 more in property taxes than they should have if the county’s $40,000 assessment is correct.

New regulations in the mid-1970s limited construction along the river, but because the properties were bought in the 1960, they were grandfathered, the Leader-Telegram reported. If any other family had owned the plot of land, they could build on it. But because the same family owns both plots, the Murrs are limited in what they can do.

New county regulations that didn’t exist when the property initially was bought say that a plot of land must have one acre of buildable area in order to be sold or developed. The vacant lot is less than that.

The case may seem complicated but involves a simple question: Can the government combine two adjacent lots against a family’s wishes, and then prevent them from selling one of them?

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Stock photo. Image source: Pixabay.com

Stock photo. Image source: Pixabay.com

The Supreme Court will hear the case this fall. The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is representing the family.

“In short, when [the vacant lot] was created in 1959, and purchased in 1963, it was of sufficient size, width, and zoning to allow development of a single family house. Indeed, that is the use allowed for all the parcels within the St. Croix Cove Subdivision. However, because of the restrictions that came into place … the parcel was now defined as ‘substandard,’” PLF attorneys wrote in a petition to the Supreme Court.

John M. Groen, the principal attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, said that “everyone who values property rights should welcome the court’s decision to hear this important case,”

“This litigation asks whether government can get away with telling property owners, in essence, ‘The more land you own, the less we’ll allow you to use,’” Groen said. “We’re challenging a practice that is all too common among land use regulators, where they tell a landowner she can’t use her property, based on the excuse that she also happens to own a neighboring parcel.

“In other words, bureaucrats will treat two, legally distinct parcels, as if they were one unified parcel, so they can prohibit all development on one of the parcels without providing compensation as required by the Fifth Amendment,” Groen added.  “As we will argue to the Supreme Court, this kind of regulatory sleight of hand cannot be permitted if the Constitution’s Takings Clause is to be respected.”

The takings clause is the portion of the Fifth Amendment that states: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The Foundation is arguing that St. Croix County and the state violated the clause by merging the lots and then by not offering just compensation.

Who do you support – the county or the Murrs? Share your views in the section below:

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Groundhog Day Snowstorm May Aim For Denver To Minneapolis

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Survival World News

By Alex SosnowskiAccuWeather

A strengthening winter storm will bring the potential for windswept snow and travel disruptions from the central Rockies to the Upper Midwest early next week, including on Groundhog Day.

While the exact timing and extent of wintry weather are not set in stone at this point, early signs are pointing to the threat for moderate to heavy snow, poor visibility and travel disruptions along a 1,000-mile-long swath.

The track and strength of storm that rolls ashore in California on Sunday will determine the coverage and intensity of the snow and wind from Colorado to Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Continue reading at AccuWeather: Groundhog Day Snowstorm May Aim For Denver To Minneapolis

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AccuWeather Winter Weather Center

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Filed under: News/ Current Events, Weather

Off-Grid Family Of 8 Evicted For Not Installing Smoke Alarm?

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Off-Grid Family Of 8 Evicted For Not Installing Smoke Alarm?

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Government officials in Wisconsin tried to force an Amish family to choose between their faith and a building code.

Amos and Vera Borntreger and their six children were nearly evicted from their off-grid home because it lacked, among other things, smoke detectors as mandated by the Uniform Dwelling Code or UDC.

A judge actually issued an order evicting the Borntregers from their home in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, before common sense prevailed, Wisconsin Watchdog reported. The Borntregers are Old Order Amish who believe that some modern technologies, including electronics, should be avoided.

County building inspectors tried to force them and 400 other Amish residents to install battery-operated smoke detectors in their homes as mandated by the UDC.

“Eau Claire County has the unfortunate distinction of being the only county in the United States that has used placard eviction to put an Amish family out of their home,” said David Mortimer, the spokesman for the local chapter of the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom.

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Mortimer was referring to Henry and Sara Mast, an elderly Amish couple evicted from their home in 2012 because they refused to install smoke detectors. Unlike the Masts, the Borntregers were not actually evicted, but the county tried.

“To ask a county to waive or to exempt someone from state code is an odd situation in and of itself,” said Lance Gurney, Eau Claire County’s planning and development department manager. “Nowhere else do we have the authority to waive or exempt someone from complying with state code.”

State Legislature to the Rescue

The Borntregers were able to stay in their home by following a waiver process approved by the Wisconsin state legislature that applies to all residents. State Rep. Kathy Bernier (R-Lake Hallie), who represents Eau Claire County, authored legislation creating the waiver after hearing about the Borntregers’ plight. Under the new law, residents can appeal to the state Department of Safety Professional Standards for a waiver if the rules conflict with sincerely held religious beliefs.

“Now that they have the waiver and are exempt from having to comply with the parts of Uniform Dwelling Code that violate their religious beliefs, they can follow the remaining procedure to comply with the permitting process,” the Borntregers’ attorney, Matthew Krische, told Wisconsin Watchdog.

A number of Amish families in Eau Claire County, including the Masts, have gotten around the UDC by installing smoke detectors for inspectors and then having someone remove them after the inspector left, the website said. But the practice is controversial among Amish, many of whom consider it deceitful.

What is your reaction to this story? Is this government overreach? Share your views in the section below:

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Thousands Of Syrian Refugees Being Resettled By Obama Could End Up In 48 Out Of 50 U.S. States

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The United States Of America At Night

By Michael Snyder – End Of The American Dream

Despite everything that just happened in France, on Sunday the Obama administration made it clear that it still plans to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in communities all over the United States within the next year.  Thanks to Obama, the U.S. has already been absorbing thousands of refugees from the Middle East each year, and as you will see below, just last week administration officials expressed a desire to “increase and accelerate” that process.  So far, the list of states that have received the most refugees includes Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.  But by the time it is all said and done, it is likely that Syrian refugees will end up in virtually every major city in the United States.  The U.S. State Department has established “refugee processing centers” in 48 different states, and you can view the entire list right here.  Considering what just took place in Paris, is this really a good idea?

In recent months, the massive influx of refugees into Europe has created a complete and utter nightmare.  Large numbers of refugees have gotten “lost”, violent crime is out of control in many of the areas where these refugees have been resettled, and nations that were once extremely peaceful such as Norway and Sweden are now dealing with an epidemic of rape.  For much, much more on the horror that Europe is now facing, please check out this excellent video.

And of course you have probably heard by now that at least one of the terrorists that carried out the attacks in Paris came into Europe “as a Syrian migrant”

One of the bombers who carried out the Paris terrorist attacks entered Europe as a Syrian migrant, according to foreign officials.

French authorities matched the remains of one of the suicide bombers from the Friday attacks to a Syrian passport that was used to apply for asylum in Europe, says Greek minister for citizen protection Nikos Toskas.

But even though ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks in France, Barack Obama doesn’t seem very alarmed.  And it was just last week that Obama stated that ISIS had been “contained”.  The following comes from the Hill

Continue reading at End Of The American Dream: Thousands Of Syrian Refugees Being Resettled By Obama Could End Up In 48 Out Of 50 U.S. States

Filed under: News/ Current Events

The Death Of Free Speech in This State

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free speechThis state is playing a dangerous game.

If you’re running for office or involved in the political process here, you better keep quiet, or else.

In Wisconsin, political incumbents and operatives bully opponents and squash free speech:

In Wisconsin, prosecutors may also impose what’s called the “John Doe” rule: Don’t tell anyone that you’re being investigated, not even your kids, your spouse and definitely not the media.

Prosecutors claim secrecy is needed to “protect privacy” of people under investigation; if charges are dropped, no one need know that you had been accused. But in truth, says Eric O’Keefe, another limited-government activist who Wisconsin prosecutors investigated, “This is about shutting us up. That’s all it is. It is a speech suppression play.”

It’s also a way for political insiders to punish their opponents. O’Keefe is a Republican, and the lead prosecutor, Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm, is a Democrat, but two Republican insiders signed off on the raids, too. “I take cold comfort in having my constitutional rights trampled by both parties,” says O’Keefe.

We who support smaller government expect retaliation from incumbent politicians. But children shouldn’t be punished. Sixteen year-old Noah Johnson was home alone when cops banged on his family’s door at dawn. His parents left early that morning.

It took the Wisconsin Supreme Court five years to right this wrong.

What took so long?

And who went to jail?

Silence from the politicians of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s Rustic Roads

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Turn back the clock to a quieter time on 117 bucolic backcountry drives spanning nearly 700 miles in the upper Midwest

 

Smack dab in the middle of Wisconsin, a dozen miles south of U.S. Highway 8, linking the state with Minnesota on the west and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the east, lies what seems at first to be just another nondescript county road. It’s a gravel band laid out over hills and through valleys sculpted by glaciers, winding its way past woodlands, fields and a scattering of lakes — a landscape that offers a sense of embarking on a more relaxing journey to the uncluttered and less hectic northern reaches of the upper Midwest in years gone by.

The commemorative marker along the route attests to the fact that there is indeed something special about this particular roadway. The 5-mile backcountry lane is R-1, the first Wisconsin stretch to be officially designated a Rustic Road back in 1975. This year the state’s Rustic Roads program celebrates 40 years of preserving the state’s remaining “scenic, lightly traveled country roads for the leisurely enjoyment of bikers, hikers and motorists,” as described by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Forty years after designating the first Rustic Road, Wisconsin continues to preserve its roads less traveled. R-56 is among several country lanes that wind through Amish communities scattered throughout the central part of the state.Photos By Tom Watson And Courtesy Craig Swedberg, Wisconsin Departments Of Tourism And Transportation, And Door County Visitors Bureau.

Forty years after designating the first Rustic Road, Wisconsin continues to preserve its roads less traveled. R-56 is among several country lanes that wind through Amish communities scattered throughout the central part of the state. Photos by Tom Watson and Courtesy Craig Swedberg, Wisconsin Departments of Tourism and Transportation, and Door County Visitors Bureau.

Currently, 117 Rustic Roads make up the network that includes 669 miles of routing through 59 counties, from the southern shores of Lake Superior to the Illinois border, and from the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers along the state’s western border east to Milwaukee and Door County along the shores of Lake Michigan. Each route is numbered in the order it was designated and is preceded with an “R” prefix. Road surfaces can be paved, dirt or gravel with a maximum speed limit of 45 mph, although some are restricted to only 25 mph.

Divided into four regions, the Rustic Roads network showcases Wisconsin’s nature, history and culture along quaint and quiet country lanes. These local roads reveal the personality of each area and collectively express the character of the state. Here’s a snapshot of some memorable off-the-beaten-path drives in each region.

Northwest

Bound on the north by Lake Superior and running along the St. Croix River on its western border, the Northwest region is home to R-1, the state’s first Rustic Road, and R-100, the 100th road added since the program began.

From Dodge County to Door County: R-106 runs through scenic farmland.

From Dodge County to Door County: R-106 runs through scenic farmland.

Following a section of the Flambeau Trail, a transportation route used by Native Americans and early fur traders, R-100 winds northward through 13.5 miles of beautiful backcountry forests, lakes and waterways. Like many routes in this neck of the woods, it also offers the promise of a glimpse of the area’s wildlife. Dense stands of hardwood forests guarantee brilliant displays of fall colors along this paved stretch that runs between Mercer and the Michigan border.

Only 2 miles long, R-62 serves as the only access to Timms Hill County Park, Wisconsin’s highest point of land. Other scenic routes include a parallel lane along the Red Cedar River (R-89) south of Menomonie, a primitive stretch cut by small country streams (R-51) and a bucolic country road (R-92) whose shoulders are abloom with trilliums and other wildflowers each spring. Several more sylvan corridors ribbon through the north-country setting of the Chequamegon National Forest, many of which intersect regional hiking trails.

Historic buildings and sites such as old churches, schoolhouses and ethnic settlements are common along these routes throughout the state. In the Northwest region, the Smith Rapids Covered Bridge, one of two remaining covered bridges in Wisconsin, and a restored 1876 logging dam are key landmarks on R-105, northwest of Rhinelander.

Northeast

Access to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is through R-103’s lush hardwood canopy (far left) and a short drive beyond the northern end of R-101, both of which parallel the waterway.

Access to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is through R-103’s lush hardwood canopy (far left) and a short drive beyond the northern end of R-101, both of which parallel the waterway.

Forests of conifers and hardwoods blanket the landscape between Wisconsin’s northern border with Michigan and the Door County peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan. Two state biking trails cross Rustic Roads in this section: the Red Cedar Bike Trail (R-107) and the Bear Skin State Trail (R-58).

Stone and arch bridges highlight the Northeast region’s rich heritage of early settlements and developing agriculture, particularly in the Fox River Valley area just outside Appleton. Some of the vintage buildings featured along these routes include R-53’s old silo and “century farm” — farmland owned by a single family for more than 100 years — reminders of the area’s agricultural history.

A couple dozen miles northwest of Marinette lies the southern end of the longest Rustic Road in Wisconsin. Coursing its way north where it links up with Highway 8,

Access to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (left) is through R-103’s lush hardwood canopy (far left) and a short drive beyond the northern end of R-101, both of which parallel the waterway.

Access to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (left) is through R-103’s lush hardwood canopy (far left) and a short drive beyond the northern end of R-101, both of which parallel the waterway.

R-32 takes travelers through a meandering 37.1-mile northern landscape of granite boulders and outcroppings, state forests and county parks. The route offers several opportunities to enjoy vistas of the Peshtigo and Thunder rivers and other flowages.
A bit farther north lies a 30-plus-mile loop of northern backcountry routes that make up R-74. Following streams and waterways in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, including the Popple River (a state-designated Wild River), this rustic gravel lane has an almost primeval feel.

Another Northeast highlight is the network of routes within Door County, all within sight of or in close proximity to scenic Lake Michigan. In Sturgeon Bay, R-77 skirts the shoreline for 3.5 miles, ending at a Coast Guard station and lighthouse at its southern end. Farther up the peninsula between Moonlight Bay and North Bay, R-38 brings the Cana Island Lighthouse into view. Its sister road, R-39, features the Toft Point State Natural Area and Ridges Sanctuary that showcase a variety of rare native plants.


Southeast

Lake Winnebago marks the northern extent of this corner of the state that includes Milwaukee and Madison, making it the most populated of the four Rustic Roads regions and therefore the one with the most parks and historic areas.
Several sites predate the Civil War. R-5 follows the route of the territorial road laid out in 1840. Cold Springs Cemetery along R-88 dates from the same period. Just south of Madison, R-19 passes a labor farm deeded in 1846, its documentation signed by President James Polk.

WisconsinMap

The Rustic Road outside the city of Portage has the distinction of being the shortest in the system. Less than a mile long, R-69 follows the Old Agency House Road. The house itself, built in 1832, sits adjacent to the Portage Canal, a system of locks and canals constructed to connect the Fox River with the Wisconsin River and provide continuous river traffic from Green Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Remains of the Old Fort Winnebago Locks structure are still visible from the edge of this Rustic Road.


Parklands and other natural areas are common throughout the network. In the Southeast, a section of R-52, a half-hour’s drive north of downtown Milwaukee, runs adjacent to Cedarburg Bog State Natural Area, called “one of the largest and most biologically diverse wetland areas in Wisconsin” by the state’s Department of Transportation. Farther west, an opportunity to view the famous sandhill cranes of Horicon Marsh is enhanced by access to the Bud Cook Hiking Trail beyond the West Point Road segment of R-106.

Fields of wildflowers and a diverse array of upland birds make R-72 west of Oshkosh a popular 3.1-mile nature drive routed through the middle of 270 acres of Nature Conservancy land.


Southwest

The Southwest’s 70-some miles of Rustic Roads hold their own against more than 600 miles in the other three regions. Only 12 Rustic Roads are represented in this region that lies along Wisconsin’s western border and the Mississippi River. Despite that proximity, R-99, 33 miles south of Prairie du Chien, is the only route on the western border with a segment that follows the river.

Cana Island Road, designated R-38, passes through boreal forest to the island’s 1870 light tower.

Cana Island Road, designated R-38, passes through boreal forest to the island’s 1870 light tower.

A bit farther north near La Crosse, R-26 offers a commanding view of the Mississippi River Valley from Brinkman Ridge. R-21, about 15 miles southwest of Baraboo, skirts Natural Bridges State Park, the oldest primitive human site in the upper Midwest and the location of Wisconsin’s largest natural arch.

This is a geologically diverse region where deep valleys, bluffs, rock outcroppings and rolling farmland create a patchwork quilt of landscapes. It’s an unglaciated “driftless” area with boulder-strewn fields, sandy soil and glacial moraine, visual reminders that this part of the state wasn’t affected by the last Ice Age.

One of the most spectacular scenic areas is the area around Wildcat Mountain State Park. R-56 winds through the countryside just west of the park’s towering rock formations and high ridgelines with panoramic views of woodlands and farms. Most roadsides are bursting with blooming wildflowers in the spring and broad expanses of brilliant colors in the fall.

R-70 and R-75 north of Platteville pass through a region settled by German and Welsh immigrants in the mid- to late 1800s. It’s not unusual to come upon a horse-drawn wagon here and along other routes, as several Rustic Roads travel through small Amish settlements scattered across the state.

Just north of La Crosse, another unique Southwest road is 2.7-mile R-64 that reaches the entrance to McGilvray Road. Known locally as Seven Bridges Road and accessible only on foot, the historic thoroughfare’s seven bowstring-arch bridges are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Follow the Signs

rustic-road-signRustic Roads are marked with the network’s distinctive brown-and-gold signs. A placard below each sign shows the R-prefix route number. Most routes are posted well in advance of junctions or intersections, while a few have to be sought out. Segments tend to run less than a half-dozen miles long and are typically accessible within a short distance of a major highway. While some of the roads are dirt or gravel, all are well maintained and nonthreatening to all but the largest vehicles.

Each Rustic Road has its own personality, its own natural and manmade attractions, and its own snippets of local and regional history. Linking to a slower paced yesteryear, the network of Rustic Roads provides a colorful and revealing tapestry stitched with decorative, nostalgic threads. They are quiet county roads away from mainstream traffic and cluttered development to enjoy at an unhurried pace.

 

If You Go

Camping at High Cliff State Park.

Camping at High Cliff State Park.

Many Wisconsin Rustic Roads are within a few miles of commercial RV parks and public campgrounds at state parks and forests, if they don’t skirt one directly. The following websites offer a broad range of camping options and other helpful information.

Good Sam Camping
www.goodsamcamping.com


Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners
www.wisconsincampgrounds.com/campgrounds


Wisconsin Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus
www.escapetowisconsin.com


Wisconsin Department of Tourism
www.travelwisconsin.com


Wisconsin State Park System
www.dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/camping