The Murr family—four siblings—collectively own two parcels of property in Troy, Wisconsin. In 1960, their parents purchased the first parcel, Lot F, in the St. Croix Cove Subdivision on which they built a 950 square foot cabin; the title was transferred to their plumbing business. In 1963, they bought Lot E in the same subdivision, which remains vacant and undeveloped. In 1994, they transferred title to Lot F from the company to their children and transferred title to Lot E from themselves to their children, both as gift. Lots E and F are adjacent to each other and both have frontage on Lake St. Croix.
In 2004, the Murrs learned that county zoning regulations prohibited them from separately developing or selling Lot E because, in 1975, twelve years after the parents acquired Lot E, St. Croix County enacted a zoning regulation, which required individual lots to contain a net project area of at least one acre. Although Lot E is 1.25 acres, more than half of it is within a floodplain and the lot also has a substantial slope. Thus, Lot E is left with a .5 acre net project area and is considered “substandard.” If anyone other than the Murrs owned Lot E, Lot E would be “grandfathered” and used as a building site; but because the Murrs own both Lots E and F, the grandfather clause’s exception does not apply to them. Moreover, the zoning ordinance prohibits the Murrs from selling Lot E to anyone else, unless it is combined with Lot F. St. Croix County denied the Murrs a variance.
After losing their case at a Wisconsin trial court, the Murrs appealed to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, which ruled that because the two lots were contiguous and happened to have the same owners the “parcel as a whole” rule in Penn Central Transp. Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104 (1996) applied. The Court of Appeals ruled that, taken together, the two lots “suffice as a single, buildable lot under the Ordinance.” The court also noted that the family was entitled to build a year-round residence, either entirely on one lot, entirely on the other lot, or straddling both lots. The Wisconsin Supreme Court denied review, but on January 16, 2015, the Supreme Court granted the petition, agreeing to answer the following question: “Whether the ‘parcel as a whole’ concept described in Penn Central Transportation Company v. City of New York, 438 U.S. 104, 130–31 (1978) establishes a rule that two legally distinct, but commonly owned contiguous parcels must be combined for takings analysis purposes.” On April 11, 2016, the Murrs filed their merits brief. On April 18, 2016, MSLF filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the Murrs, arguing that the “parcel as a whole” concept from Penn Central does not require courts to aggregate legally distinct, contiguous properties in takings analyses. Respondents filed their opposition on June 10, 2016, and the Murrs filed their reply brief on July 27, 2016. On March 20, 2017, the Supreme Court held oral arguments. On June 23, 2017, contrary to arguments made by MSLF, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's ruling against the Murrs.