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Red Cliff Tribe Wins Federal Lawsuit over Zoning

Red Cliff Tribe Wins Federal Lawsuit over Zoning

Created: January 10, 2020 04:55 PM

The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians has won a federal lawsuit over Bayfield County zoning enforcement.

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The dispute was over whether the county should be allowed to enforce its zoning laws on "fee simple" land owned by tribal members within the reservation.  That represents 511 acres, or 3.5 percent, of the reservation.

The case stems from disputes involving a distillery in 2016 and a private driveway in 2017.  In both cases, the property owners are tribal members who received zoning approval from the tribe but were later told by the county that they were in violation.

In a 22-page opinion and order issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge William M. Conley approved the Band's motion for summary judgement in the case.  Conley concluded that "there is no express authorization by Congress for the County to apply its zoning ordinance on fee simple land owned by the Tribe or its members within the boundaries of the Reservation."

The Red Cliff Band issued a news release Thursday quoting Tribal Chairman Rick Peterson as saying that the tribal council "remains committed to defending unlawful assertions of non-tribal authority."

"As we cautioned previously, Bayfield County's intrusion into the Red Cliff Tribal government's right to govern its members within its own territory will not go unchecked," Peterson said in the news release.

According to court documents, the tribe disavowed any interest in regulating zoning of "fee simple" land on the reservation owned by non-tribal members.

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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