This is a review of a decision of the court of appeals, Oneida County v. Converse, 173 Wis.2d 78, 496 N.W.2d 124 (Ct. App. 1992), reversing a judgment entered pursuant to an order of the Oneida County Circuit Court, James P. Jansen, Judge, dated May 16, 1992, which granted summary judgment to Oneida County and ordered R. Bruce Converse et al. to pay forfeitures and remove a boathouse erected in violation of the Oneida County Zoning and Shorelands Protection Ordinances.
The issue we address on this review is whether the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) exceeded the authority granted it under sec. 30.121(6), Stats.,
Since 1945, the Converses have owned a two story wet boathouse
The Converses did not seek review of the decision of the County Board of Adjustment. Rather, in spite of the permit denial, the Converses rebuilt the wet boathouse in the spring of 1985. Upon finding that the Converses had rebuilt the boathouse, Oneida County filed suit, claiming that sec. 9.51 D of the County ordinances had been violated. Pursuant to sec. 9.126 A of the County ordinances, the County asked the court to impose forfeitures and order removal of the boathouse. As a defense, the Converses pointed to Wis. Admin. Code sec. NR 325.065, which provides:
Oneida County circuit court granted summary judgment to the County. The court of appeals reversed. The court of appeals concluded that sec. 9.90 of the Oneida County ordinances conflicts with Wis. Admin. Code sec. NR 325.065. The court ruled that the Oneida County ordinance was invalid to the extent it precluded rebuilding wet boathouses destroyed by violent wind, vandalism or fire.
The issue we address is whether section 30.121, Stats., provided the DNR the authority to promulgate Wis. Admin. Code sec. NR 325.065. If sec. 30.121 did not authorize the DNR to promulgate this rule, then the rule must be invalidated.
We begin our interpretation of sec. 30.121 by determining whether the statute clearly expresses legislative intent in regard to the subject of the administrative rule. If the intent of the legislature is clear from the statute our analysis of the statute ends, because courts and agencies must follow unambiguously expressed legislative intent. We then look at the agency's rule to determine whether it is consistent with the clear intent of the legislature. An agency cannot promulgate a rule inconsistent with an unambiguous statute. Basic Products Corp. v. Dept. of Taxation, 19 Wis.2d 183, 186, 120 N.W.2d 161 (1963). "[An agency's] rule-making power does not extend beyond the power to carry into effect the purpose as expressed in the enactment of the legislature.'" Basic Products Corp., 19 Wis. 2d at 163 (quoting Village of Plain v. Harder, 268 Wis. 507, 511, 68 N.W.2d 47 (1955).
Furthermore, sec. 30.121(6) provides that the Department of Natural Resources "may promulgate rules deemed necessary to carry out the purposes of this section." The express language of sec. 30.121 indicates that the legislature intends to phase out wet boathouses. New construction of wet boathouses is prohibited, while repairs and maintenance are only allowed when they are no more than fifty percent of assessed or fair market value. Because of the restrictions on maintenance and repair, these provisions provide only limited protection to owners of existing wet boathouses. Section 30.121 clearly does not allow owners of existing wet boathouses to completely replace these structures.
Wis. Admin. Code sec. NR 325.065 is also inconsistent with sec. 30.121(2), which is applicable if rebuilding a boathouse after a tornado is considered construction. Section 30.121(2) prohibits construction of wet boathouses after December 16, 1979, whereas the DNR rule authorizes such construction as long as the boathouse was destroyed by fire, violent wind, or vandalism. Again, the DNR rule is authorizing an activity plainly prohibited by the statute. Wis. Admin. Code sec. NR 325.065 cannot stand.
The Converses argue that the fundamental purpose of sec. 30.121 is to save wet boathouses. The Converses state that before passage of sec. 30.121, repair and maintenance of wet boathouses was completely forbidden. According to the Converses, the legislature passed sec. 30.121 to change this situation so that those boathouses already in existence could continue to survive. Thus, they argue, Wis. Admin. Code sec. NR 325.065 is consistent with the basic purpose
However, the Converses fail to provide any support for their position that saving boathouses is the basic purpose of sec. 30.121. Furthermore, as already discussed, their interpretation is inconsistent with the express language of sec. 30.121, which clearly indicates that the purpose of the statute is to phase out wet boathouses.
The Converses only rely on Wis. Admin. Code sec. NR 325.065 as a basis for concluding that they were entitled to rebuild their boathouse. Because this DNR rule is invalid, the Converses are bound by the Oneida County ordinances. Accordingly, it was appropriate for the circuit court to grant summary judgment and impose forfeitures, as well as to require that the Converses remove the new boathouse. The decision of the court of appeals is reversed and the judgment of the circuit court is thereby reinstated.
By the Court.—Decision reversed.