Dockominium case floats big concerns
Posted: Wed Jun 26, 2002 1:07 am
When we were made aware of the “dockominium” issue, we thought it was something that people in our area should know about. While the current case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court involves a specific property in far southern Wisconsin, it has implications that could impact every private dock owner in the state.<p>We aren’t aware of any actual dockominium developments in the Tomahawk area, but we can think of hundreds of private docks, just off the top of our heads.<p>Having read the Court of Appeals decision in the Lake Geneva dockominium case, we agree with those who say it raises a red flag for private property rights. We think it’s important that, whatever decision the Supreme Court comes to, it clarifies that the ruling should only apply to dockominiums. <p>We find it interesting that various groups with conflicting interests – both those who support and oppose the right of marina owners to sell boat slips – are all suing the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) over the issue.<p> In this case, the DNR has said there’s a difference between renting boat slips and selling them. The rationale is that the waters of Wisconsin belong to the public and no one has the right to sell even a small piece of water. But isn’t that what people do every day, when they sell a waterfront property? Buyers pay big money, and ever after big taxes, for the private ownership of a shoreline and dock, including the exclusive right to moor their boat on that dock.<p>The whole issue is one of splitting hairs. When you buy a waterfront property, you know you’re not actually buying the water, just the land adjacent to the water and the dock above it. Same with a dockominium. Those people are buying a place to keep their boat (attached to a man-made pier), not an actual piece of water.<p>From our rather comfortably distant vantage point, it appears that dockominiums should be regulated to keep the number of boats within the carrying capacity of the specific water body. But we don’t really see a big problem with renting or selling spaces in a marina. <p>As for the ramifications for private pier owners who have no intention of selling dock space, we urge the Supreme Court to be careful in the way its decision is worded. A straight affirmation of the over broad Court of Appeals Ruling could open a Pandora’s box.