August Municipal Law Alert Available

The August 2014 edition of the Municipal Law Alert is now available online. View the latest articles by clicking here or clicking the titles below. This month’s articles include changes in ATV and UTV laws and a new state law that preempts local regulation of cell phone towers.

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Dropped Calls: State Law Preempts Local Tower Regulation

Does your city, village or town have a cell tower ordinance? Probably not anymore!

A new state law that preempts local regulation of cell phone towers went into effect last summer. Although the new law allows local regulation of cell towers within a very narrow range, it severely restricts local regulation in some critical areas such as height, setbacks, and the location of towers. It also prohibits moratoriums on cell tower construction.

The new statutory section, Wis. Stat. § 66.0404 was created by the budget bill, 2013 Act 20. It was buried on page 361 of the 603-page budget bill, and had no hearing or public comment. Interesting how new laws can get enacted as part of the budget bill, especially ones that most local officials, not to mention most observers in general, would not consider related to the state’s budget.

In addition to the new limitations, if a municipality’s existing ordinance violates almost any aspect of the new law, the existing ordinance is void and unenforceable, per Wis. Stat. § 66.0404(2)(i). In other words, if a municipality’s cell tower ordinance regulates height, setbacks, or location, it is most likely completely invalid.

For example, in an effort to reduce the number of towers, many local ordinances required new antennas to be placed on existing cell or on water towers, if possible (this is called “collocation”). The new law will prohibit location and collocation requirements such as these. In fact, no regulation of location is permitted, and setback regulations are limited to matching setbacks in effect for other structures and buildings in a given zoning district.

Those narrow areas where local governments are still allowed to regulate cell towers must be regulated via a zoning ordinance. Cities, villages and towns that have zoning ordinances can amend them to comply with the new law. But towns with no zoning have no local control option, while towns under county zoning will have to rely on whatever the county decides to do.

Though local control of cell towers has been seriously restricted, municipalities may still want to enact new regulations in compliance with the new state law to ensure the city, village or town has notice when a new cell tower will be located in the municipality. In addition, a municipality may want to require the permitted financial assurance that an unused cell tower will be removed and not simply abandoned.

To reiterate, it is likely that most, if not all, cell tower ordinances which were in existence prior to the summer of 2013 are unenforceable. Municipalities wishing to regulate cell towers should review their existing regulation, and consider amending their current zoning ordinance.

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ATV Law Changes

Wisconsin is often considered the big backyard of the Midwest. Every season, thousands of individuals from both in and out of state flock to Wisconsin to enjoy all the outdoor activities our state has to offer. To many, nothing says Wisconsin like firing up an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) or Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) and throwing a little mud and dirt around the backcountry. Accordingly, municipalities that have adopted the state statutes as they apply to ATVs and UTVs should be aware of some recent changes.

The law now allows more children to share in the sport. ATV operators under 12 years of age may now operate ATVs and UTVs on land under the management and control of a person who consents to the operation of an ATV or UTV as long as the child is accompanied by parent or guardian or by a person over the age of 18 who has been designated by the parent or guardian. Also, a person under 12 years of age may now operate a small ATV on DNR designated ATV trails if accompanied by their parent or guardian or a person over the age of 18 that has been designated by the child’s parent or guardian.

Additionally, changes have been made to ATV and UTV speed restrictions. No person may operate an ATV or UTV at speeds exceeding 10 miles per hour within 100 feet of another person who is not operating a motor vehicle, ATV, UTV, or snowmobile. This restriction does not apply to operation of an ATV or UTV on roadways designated as ATV routes, or while competing in a sanctioned race or derby.

Finally, changes to the safety requirements no longer require an ATV or UTV operator to hold a valid safety certificate at qualified, closed course, ATV or UTV demonstrations as long as the operator wears protective headgear. Demonstration events are ATV or UTV events sponsored by an ATV or UTV dealer or club, or by a municipality or the State of Wisconsin. If the operator is under 18 years old, they must also be accompanied by a parent or guardian or a person over 18 years old that has been designated by the child’s parent or guardian to participate in such demonstrations.

If your municipality has additional questions about the changes to Wisconsin ATV and UTV law or its application and enforcement, contact your municipal attorney.

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What is a 341 Hearing in Bankruptcy?

B&B

Take a moment for “Bits & Bytes,” as Attorney Deanne Koll explains what occurs at a 341 Hearing, who can attend, and why you may be interested as the lender.

Disclaimer: This video is designed to be educational and informative, but it is not legal advice. Collection law is constantly evolving and subject to change. Each situation is unique, and each case should be addressed to fit the unique situation.

 

The 341 Hearing in bankruptcy—sometimes referred to as the “Meeting of the Creditors” — is an informal hearing scheduled for the debtor to appear.

At this hearing, the bankruptcy trustee questions the debtor, under oath, about information in the bankruptcy schedules and about the debtor’s general financial dealings. Any creditor who wishes to appear may do so and has a limited right to question the debtor while under oath.

It is uncommon for creditors to appear at a 341 Hearing. However, this hearing can be useful for creditors who believe the debtor has potentially made fraudulent statements or committed other acts which may affect the dischargeability of a debt.

For example, if the creditor believes that the debtor has potentially sold collateral encumbered by the creditor’s security interest, it may be useful to attend the hearing and question the debtor about the location of that collateral.

Or, it may be useful –if the creditor believes that the debtor has assets which were not properly disclosed in the bankruptcy schedules –to attend the hearing to apprise the trustee of these issues.

Possible attendance at this hearing should be discussed with your attorney.

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