Door County Village Cutting Short Term Renting Options Ahead of the Summer

WILL lawsuit seeks to end government picking winners and losers, court hearing this week

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and Attorney Bjorn Johnson have filed a lawsuit against the Village of Sister Bay on behalf of their clients Captains Cottage LLC, a short-term rental in the Village for unlawfully refusing to issue Captains Cottage a permit to rent the property. Due to the Village’s actions, Captains Cottage was forced to cancel all their reservations starting July 1, causing a substantial loss of income. Following WILL’s filed complaint, a judge has granted a temporary restraining order and set a hearing for Wednesday, June 26th.

The Quotes: WILL Deputy Counsel, Luke Berg, stated, “This is a local government at its worst. Wisconsin law clearly protects homeowners like our clients, yet the Village not only unlawfully denied their license, but then refused to allow them to appeal the denial, as they have a right to do.”

WILL Client, Brigid White, and an owner of Captains Cottage, stated, “We love to rent out our cottage every summer so people can experience all Door County has to offer. Our home is on the waterfront of Green Bay, in an old family resort area where short-term rentals and cottages have long existed in harmony. It’s such a shame that the Village is abusing its zoning code to try to force homeowners to change old, historic properties like ours. We hope the Court rules in our favor so we can get back to making this beautiful property available.”

Additional Background: Wisconsin law gives homeowners the right to rent their home on a short-term basis. Wis. Stat. § 66.1014. Property owners also have a right under Wisconsin law to continue a non-conforming use after a change to local zoning laws, preventing municipalities from retroactively applying zoning changes to existing properties. Yet Sister Bay has taken the position that, by applying for a short-term-rental license, properties lose any vested non-conforming features of their property. The Village is trying to force the Whites to replace their entire driveway and front landscaping just to get a short-term-rental license. Village Ordinance § 18.56(F) also gives property owners a right to appeal the denial of a short-term-rental license to the Village Board of Trustees. Defendants violated that plain legal right by: (1) failing to create an “Appeal Form” or adopt an “appeal fee,” which, per the ordinance, are required to appeal; (2) refusing to provide the Whites with any appeal form or inform them of the amount of the fee when they asked for it; and (3) rejecting their attempt to appeal for failing to pay a fee that doesn’t exist.

About Captains Cottage: The cottage is owned by Adam and Brigid White and sleeps as many as 10 and is in Sister Bay, Wisconsin.

Luke Berg

Luke Berg

Deputy Counsel

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