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Development implications of shoreland zoning

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2018 | Blog

Wisconsin is rich with lakes and natural beauty, and the state aims to continue an optimal balance of development and preservation.

Here are some of the basic shoreland zoning requirements in Wisconsin to keep in mind whether you’re planning to develop a piece of waterfront property or remodel already existing structures.


A corridor for Viewing and Access

The balance between the natural beauty and amenities for viewing and enjoying it are addressed in the viewing and access corridor regulation. This shoreland zoning requirement allows for viewing and access corridors to enable the enjoyment of waterfront property. A passage can be up to 35 feet wide for every 100 feet of shoreline frontage of the property and must be one continuous area along the shorefront.

Setbacks and Their Exceptions

There’s a 75-foot setback from the ordinary high-water mark for structures such as homes, but what about things such as walkways and boathouses? Counties have a great deal of regulatory oversight about structures such as gazebos and boathouses, so it is a good idea to know what the specific rules are for the areas you are interested in. Walkways need to be no more than 60 inches wide and within the viewing and access corridor.

Vegetation Requirements

Buffers of vegetation make up most of the shoreline within 35 feet of the ordinary high-water mark. County rules can designate cutting restrictions such as only allowing cutting of foliage in the viewing and access corridor.

Impervious Surfaces

Surfaces that are impenetrable to water are necessarily limited on waterfront property to optimize natural drainage of precipitation. Normally limited to 15 percent of the lot, there are some exceptions made for lots in high development areas or where there are runoff mitigation measures in place.

These points are just a small part of what makes up Wisconsin’s detailed and complex shoreland zoning codes. It can be to your advantage to consult with a professional that is familiar with local zoning issues so you can choose the right waterfront property for you and your family.

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