Early last summer the U.S. Supreme Court released its long-awaited, and deeply flawed decision in Murr v. Wisconsin, __ U.S. __ (2017). We wrote about this unfortunate new takings case here and in “Missed Opportunity In Takings Decision,” Daily Journal (July 13, 2017).
The short story is that the Murr family bought two adjacent parcels at separate times in the early 1960s near the St. Croix River in Wisconsin, a designated wild and scenic river. They built a small, 950-square foot cabin on one of the parcels and kept the other parcel vacant as an investment. The Murr children later acquired both parcels and sought to sell the vacant parcel in the 1990s to finance improvements to the rustic, 57-year old, cabin. But a Wisconsin statute and county zoning ordinance, enacted in the 1970s, prevented the Murrs from selling or developing the vacant parcel because it was smaller than the minimum size deemed suitable for development even though it has a half acre of developable land, meets all environmental regulations and setbacks, and is surrounded by development on similarly sized parcels. Because the parcel was still undeveloped, now held in common ownership, and deemed substandard, it was treated as “merged” with the developed parcel.