Judge dismisses lawsuit against Douglas County over Wascott horse farm

A judge found the Board of Supervisors correctly followed state statute when it denied a petition for rezoning.

Douglas County Circuit Court Gavel 2
Douglas County Circuit Court, Superior, Wis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — A civil suit against the Douglas County Board of Supervisors and town of Wascott landowners who protested granting a zoning change for a horse farm near Persons Lake was dismissed Wednesday, Dec. 7, by Burnett County Judge Melissia R. Mogen. The lawsuit was the latest development in Craig and Christine McNeil’s quest to build a horse farm on their land in Wascott.

The McNeils, who have been trying to get their property rezoned since August 2021, filed the suit Feb. 18 in Douglas County Circuit Court.

Their petition for rezoning was unanimously approved by the Wascott Town Board, but the Douglas County Planning and Zoning Committee voted to deny the application on the grounds that it constituted spot zoning. The Douglas County Board of Supervisors sent the petition back to the committee for further consideration, at which time the committee reversed its decision and voted to approve the petition.

Wascott hobby farm.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

Opponents of the hobby farm submitted a petition opposing the rezoning request. Under state statute, if owners of abutting properties that represent over 50% of the total perimeter of the area to be rezoned file a petition within 24 hours of the meeting, a three-fourths majority vote is required for approval.

A majority of Douglas County Board of Supervisors voted Jan. 20 to approve the zoning change for the hobby farm, but since they did not meet the three-fourths majority requirement, the request was denied.


The McNeils claimed in the civil suit that the signatures on the petition were not notarized, making it invalid, and that it did not represent the true owners of the property comprising over 50% of the land abutting their property.

Quest for Wascott hobby farm leads to civil suit

After examining each of the McNeils' claims, Mogen found that the county board followed the law when it interpreted the statue and made its determination.

The statute was intended to “provide owners of property abutting property that is being requested to be re-zoned a bigger voice in matters like this, as the decision significantly affects them and their property,” the judge wrote, hence the need for a supermajority vote.

Because the McNeils could not meet their burden of proof, the case was dismissed and the county board's decision was affirmed.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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