Summer on the waterfront in Wisconsin can be quite enjoyable. Waterfront owners now have something more to cheer about; aside from the lovely view from their pier. Since April when Wisconsin modified the rights of waterfront owners. The new law grandfathers in almost all existing piers and guarantees that waterfront property owners have the right to place a pier even in areas the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has deemed to be “environmentally significant.”
Under the new law all existing piers are grandfathered in as long as the pier meets the guidelines below:
- The pier must have been originally placed prior to February 6, 2004.
- The width of the pier could be no wider than eight feet.
- A loading platform or deck was allowed as long as it is located at the lakeward end of the pier and the platform had a surface area no greater than either (a) 200 square feet, which may be any width, or (b) 300 square feet, if the deck/platform is no wider than 10 feet.
Moreover, the new law allows the waterfront owner to relocate or reconfigure the pier as long as the pier is not enlarged.
A new pier can now be placed without getting a permit if the following requirements are met:
- Width: No more than six feet wide.
- Length: No longer than what is necessary to moor your boat or use a boat lift, or 3-foot water depth, whichever is greater.
- Number of boats: Two boat slips/lifts for the first 50 feet of water frontage of your property, plus one more boat slip/lift for each additional 50 feet of frontage.
- Number of personal watercraft: Two personal watercraft for the first 50 feet of water frontage of your property, plus one more personal watercraft for each additional 50 feet of frontage.
- Loading platforms: A loading platform/deck with a surface area no greater than 200 square feet.
If a waterfront property owner wants to place a pier that exceeds these standards, a permit must be obtained from the DNR.
New Piers in Environmentally Significant Areas
Piers can now be built in areas that are considered by the DNR to be environmentally significant. While you still have to obtain a general permit for building the pier, the DNR can no longer prohibit the construction of a pier. However, the DNR may impose condition on the location, design, construction, and installation of such piers.
You may now maintain your existing boathouse if it was constructed prior to 1979. You may use unlimited resources to maintain the boathouse. However, the boathouse can not be expanded.
When looking at purchasing waterfront property it will be important to discuss with your realtor whether the current property owner has received notice from the DNR that the pier is detrimental to the public interest and if the pier interferes with the rights of other waterfront owners.
Source: “New Pier Grandfathering Legislation Signed Into Law,” The Wisconsin Realtors Association Real Estate Magazine (May 2012).