Supreme Court will hear Wisconsin family's property rights case

The Murr family has a lovely little spot for a picnic along the banks of the St. Croix River.

And they better enjoy picnics, because Wisconsin says they’re not allowed to do much else with the land. They can’t sell it, or build something on it, or basically do anything except stand on it and admire the river as it flows lazily past.

That’s because St. Croix County and the state Department of Natural Resources have decided the Murrs’ 1.25-acre parcel does not comply with regulations requiring a buffer between waterways and buildings.

The Murrs also own a cabin that sits on a separate, adjoining 1.25-acre parcel. Even though the two pieces of land are separate, the county says they can be regulated as a single plot — and that means the Murrs are unable to sell the second, vacant, parcel.

Since regulations block them from using the land for any commercial reason, the Murrs asked the county to compensate them for the value of the land — which they estimate at $400,000. They got an offer of $40,000.

“If you want to regulate this lot to death, I suppose you can do that. But if you do that, then you owe us just compensation for it,” said Todd Graziano, executive director of the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Washington, D.C., office.

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