The Wisconsin Supreme Court accepted a petition to review a case involving the City of Kenosha today, March 24. The case involves a local resident who disputed the City’s classification of his land. In 2017, Anthony Nudo purchased vacant land in the City of Kenosha to develop into a residential subdivision. The City Assessor changed the classification to residential after Nudo purchased the land. Nudo, a local attorney and former City Alderman knows the rules well. He objected on the grounds that the land, although purchased for residential purposes, was not yet residential. In fact, Nudo argued, the land was agricultural land because of a walnut orchard and Christmas trees growing on the property along with chickens being kept on the land. However, the City held that they can consider what the future use of the land could be to get higher taxes.
Why does this matter? Well, under Wisconsin law, agricultural land is taxed MUCH less than residential land. Nudo was registered with the State of Wisconsin as a livestock premises and obtained a license from the City of Kenosha and County Health Department to keep chickens on the land known as Nudo Farms. The County Clerk issued Nudo a harvesting license to cut and sell Christmas trees from the land. Walnuts were harvested from the orchard. But none of that mattered to the City. After several appeals, including a split decision from the Court of Appeals with a scathing dissent against the City, the case has found its way in front of the Supreme Court.
Only 5-8% of appeals made to the Supreme Court are accepted. The vast majority of cases never get there. Under state statute, the “Supreme [C]ourt review is a matter of judicial discretion, not of right, and will be granted only when special and important reasons are presented.” Wis. Stat. § 809.62(1r). It appears here that the Supreme Court wants to make sure that landowners are treated fairly under the law and not on the whim of an assessor. How much has this fight cost the taxpayers? Likely tens of thousands of dollars that the City cannot recover.
Nudo is representing himself in this case. Not many attorneys they have been practicing law for only 3 years have argued in front of the highest court in Wisconsin. As for a timeline, both sides have about a month each to file a brief. Then comes the oral arguments. It could take another 6 months to a year before we hear the court’s decision.
The old adage goes “you can’t fight City Hall.” One brave citizen has gone against that and brought the fight all the way up to the top. Let’s hope this fight helps the City to start following the law and stop bullying taxpayers.