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Ozaukee County Land and Water Management Department

Administrative Center

P.O. Box 994
121 W Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074-0994
Local Phone: (262) 284-8313
Metro Phone: (262) 238-8313
Fax: (262) 284-8367
Metro Fax: (262) 238-8367
We are open from 8:30 am to 5:00pm
Monday through Friday

Ozaukee County Land Guide

Quick Links
 Building Permits 
Floodplain Zoning
General Zoning
Planning, Zoning and Building Permit Information
Shoreland Zoning
Subdivision Ordinances
Zoning Ordinances

Subdivision and zoning ordinances regulate how land may be divided, what uses may be established and through what procedures, and where structures may be placed on the land. These regulations are established, administered, and enforced based on statutory requirements or grants of authority.

Land use and its regulation are often controversial as well as confusing. If you have questions about how land may be divided, used, or built upon, or the legal procedures regulating those activities, please contact the appropriate agency below for information. General information regarding building permits, zoning permits, and land use regulations applicable in each municipality may found by contacting the local municipal clerk [see Ozaukee County Chart, page 35].


Regardless where you live, if you create five or more parcels of land in a period of five years and the parcels are 1.5 acres or less in size, Wisconsin law requires a formal platting process. A registered surveyor must prepare a plat. A certified soil tester must conduct percolation tests. Proper access must be provided to public roads. Under the provisions of Chapter 236 of the Wisconsin Statutes, several state agencies, the county, and the municipality then review the plat.

Counties, towns, cities, and villages may adopt and administer subdivision ordinances in addition to the state requirements.


A property's zoning district [residential, commercial, agricultural, etc.] determines how the land may be used, the minimum size for new lots, the maximum height of structures, and the setbacks required from roads, navigable water, property lines, etc. The purpose of zoning is to provide for an area's orderly development and to minimize conflicts between incompatible land uses.

A zoning ordinance is typically based on a "plan" which outlines the community's goals and objectives for future development. A zoning ordinance includes maps which show zoning district boundaries and text explaining the regulations for each district and use. Zoning ordinance permits certain land uses in each district by right, provided that all requirements of the ordinance are met. Other uses, called conditional uses, are permitted if the zoning agency determines that the use can be made compatible with the surrounding area. Lots, structures, and uses in existence when a municipality adopts an ordinance that do not meet the requirements of the new ordinance are called "nonconforming." Usually nonconforming lots, structures, and uses are "grandfathered," but some restrictions may apply.  Contact the municipality with zoning jurisdiction over your property for further information [see Ozaukee County Chart, page 35].

 General Zoning

Ozaukee County has not adopted a county plan or zoning ordinance.  Each of the fourteen municipalities has adopted and administers their own individual zoning ordinances.

Shoreland Zoning

Wisconsin state law requires counties to adopt and enforce zoning for unincorporated shoreland and wetland areas. These areas are defined as lands within 1000 feet of a navigable lake, pond, or flowage; or lands within 300 feet of a navigable creek, stream, or river. The county zoning ordinance is in effect in the shoreland areas of the Towns of Cedarburg, Grafton, Saukville, Port Washington, Fredonia,  Shoreland areas that are annexed by the incorporated municipalities must also adhere to the county zoning requirements.  Those requirements effect minimum lot sizes, allowable land uses, and minimum setbacks from lot lines and the ordinary high water mark are established for shoreland zoning districts. The ordinary high water mark is typically the tree or vegetation line at the "top" of the beach, the result of the activity of water upon the land over time.

While waterfront property owners purchase "riparian rights" with their property (rights related to the use of the beach and waters adjacent to the land), these rights are limited. Wisconsin law states that all navigable waters are public. In addition, any alterations to the shoreland [vegetation and tree removal, dredging, docks, upland earth disturbances] are subject to approval by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), at (414) 263-8679, and/or the Land and Water Management Department, at (262) 284-8313 . Typically, the DNR has jurisdiction over activities taking place on the waterward side of the ordinary high water mark while Ozaukee County has jurisdiction on the landward side.

Building Permits

Building permits are required for many projects in most of the municipalities in Ozaukee

County.  Check with your municipal clerk for more information on obtaining a building permits.

Floodplain Zoning

Floodplain ordinances set minimum standards for construction in floodplains in order that construction projects and upstream and downstream properties are protected from potential floodwaters. Floodplain zoning allows property owners to be eligible for federal flood insurance.

The incorporated areas [Cities of Mequon, Cedarburg, and Port Washington, and the Villages of  Thiensville, Grafton, Saukville, and Fredonia] administer their own floodplain zoning ordinances. The Ozaukee County Board of Supervisors has adopted a county floodplain ordinance, administered by the Land and Water Management Department, (262) 284-8277, which is effective in all unincorporated areas of the county [the 6 towns].  The Village of Belgium does not have a floodplain-zoning ordinance.

 Table of Contents | Chapter Eleven - Building on your Land/Housing Issues

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121 W Main St P.O. Box 994 - Port Washington WI 53074 - Phone 262-284-9411 - Email Us