Wisconsin Removes 50-Foot Highway Setback Restriction

February 23, 2015

From 1999 to 2009, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), acting under Administrative Rule Trans 233, reviewed land divisions for compliance with access, setback, noise and traffic visibility. By far, the most controversial item was the 50-foot highway setback, which prohibited improvements within the 50-foot corridor.

Trans 233 was eventually declared invalid by Dane County Circuit Court Case No. 06-CV-4294, Madison Area Builders Association, et al v. Wisconsin Department of Transportation; et al. From 2009 to present WisDOT has not been reviewing land divisions as a result of the court ruling. The court ordered that Trans 233 revert to the 1996 version, which only applies to subdivision plats, thereby taking away WisDOT’s powers to impose restrictions on other forms of land divisions.

As a result of this court order and upon request, WisDOT will release the setback line on land divisions other than subdivision plats.  As of February 2015 there is a two-step process. A letter of release must be obtained from WisDOT and a correction document prepared. Both documents will be recorded at the Register of Deeds’ office.

If you have a project that has been subjected to the setback restriction (other than by subdivision plat), please contact me at raSmith at 262-317-3249 or john.casucci@rasmith.com. We will be happy to assist you in the removal of the setback restriction.

About the Author

John Casucci is a senior project manager of survey services in raSmith's Brookfield, Wis., office. He has more than 30 years of experience on a wide range of surveying projects, including boundary, aerial, construction, topographic and control surveying.

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