A Wisconsin condominium association was built as many condominium projects are — with privately owned roads. The difference with this development is that it was part of a larger development plan — one that forced it to share its private thoroughfares with neighboring associations and an apartment complex.
Over time, as residents purchased units in the development, the traffic on the Association’s private streets increased greatly, and numerous speeding cars became a safety issue. The City was less than helpful with traffic enforcement, claiming that since the streets were private, it was not the City’s problem. The Association took matters into its own hands and constructed a gate over one of its roads, which redirected some of the traffic and curbed some of the speeding. However, the City did not like the gate, and citing public safety concerns, demanded that the Association apply for a permit to keep the gate. Since the City’s ordinances did not address private gates over private roads, it stretched its ordinances for a reason to require a permit, ultimately calling the gate a “structure.”
The association turned to the Husch Blackwell Condominium & HOA Law Team. After two rounds of circuit court litigation and an appeal, the City capitulated, and created a new ordinance to address private gates — allowing gates with some conditions (which the Association was more than willing to meet). The Association was not expecting this result, as it is not every day that a condominium association essentially forces a municipality to make laws to fit its particular situation. Nonetheless, the Association was pleased with the success.
Lesson: Sometimes tenacity pays off for an association. Fighting legal battles with municipalities definitely carries some risk, but rewards can be great if you stick with the cause.