Wisconsin Court of Appeals
Managed forest land
When property is withdrawn from the managed forest land program, sec. 77.89(1) unambiguously requires the DNR to pay the withdrawal tax to the municipality in which the land is located.
“The Town claims that the statute is ambiguous. ‘Ambiguity arises when more than one reasonable, although not necessarily correct, meaning can be attributed to a word, phrase, or statute.’ West Allis Sch. Dist. v. Department of Indus., Labor & Human Relations, 116 Wis. 2d 410, 418-19, 342 N.W.2d 415 (1984). The Town argues the phrase ‘each municipality in which is located the land to which the payment applies’ is ambiguous because the word ‘each’ implies that more than one municipality can receive money.
“The Town argues it is therefore reasonable to read the statute as requiring that withdrawal payments be made ‘to each and every municipality which held the land at one time or another, and assumed the burden of the tax reduction while the property was enrolled in (the MFL program).’ However, the Town’s proposed reading is not reasonable because it ignores the present tense verb form ‘is located.’
“By using the present tense, the statute unambiguously limits withdrawal tax payments to municipalities where the land is presently located.”
Recommended for publication in the official reports.
2010AP1501 Town of Somerset v. DNR
Dist. III, St. Croix County, Cameron, J., Peterson, J.
Attorneys: For Appellant: Brose, Michael J., New Richmond; Rasmussen, Christine A., New Richmond; For Respondent: Milligan, Diane L., Madison; O’Brien, Michael F., Eau Claire