The Wisconsin Legislature in its last session made significant changes to the ability of municipalities to regulate commercial and other buildings.

Senate Bill 472 prohibits municipalities from imposing cost requirements on repair or remodeling of legal nonconforming structures.  Such structures are not compliant under currrent zoning regulations, but were compliant at the time the current regulations were adopted.  Such structures cannot be made to comply with current regulations, but municipalities have long provided that if costs of repairs or remodeling of a structure exceed 50% of a structure’s assessed or fair market value, the structure must become completely compliant with the zoning code.  They can no longer do so, once the Bill is signed into law by the Governor.

Senate Bill 300 authorizes municipalites to impose time limits on variances granted from zoning code requirements.  Therefore, if a municipality allows by variance  a change in use of property or an exception from area requirements such as setbacks for a structure, it may not provide that variance applies only for a given period of time.  Previously, it was necessary for a municipality to revoke a variance.