The History of Dockominiums in Wisconsin
A dockominium is a nickname for a marina condominium. And if you don't think that makes any sense, I really don't blame you. Where I live in southern Wisconsin, dockominiums were a hot topic back in 2007 when our state legislators took up the issue of the legality of dockominiums. A law was slipped into the state's biennial budget that was intended to clarify any questions arising with dockominiums.
Public marinas were being converted into "marina condominiums" as a result of state laws that changed condominium regulations back in the 1980s. The marina condo, or dockominium, gives a legal right to purchase access to a boat slip instead of renting it from the owner of the pier/dock. One would actually have the lawful right to the slip/boat space. Now, obviously, you can't purchase rights to a boat slip if that slip is part of the rights of a residential home like a condo or a house. If you do not own waterfront land, you can't own a boat slip. It was a major issue with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources because according to the state's statutes, only waterfront landowners have the right to place a pier. Owning a boat slip without owning land and having riparian rights would be in violation of the law. Marinas were intended for public use; once they are converted to marina condominiums, they are now privately used.
The debate over dockominiums started in Fontana, WI at the Abbey Resort on Geneva Lake. There are over 400 boat slips at the Abbey's marina. They converted the marina into a marina condominium back in the 1990s. The owners of a slip were given access to a lock box on the shore. They were granted exclusive use of that slip. Law suits came up as the DNR objected. The case made it all the way to the state supreme court. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Wisconsin DNR stating that the dockominium owners did not have valid units according to state condo laws. A new law was eventually created that prohibited the creation of more dockominiums, yet, grandfathering existing marina condos.
Today, if someone where to try to create a marina condominium, any property interest in riparian land is deemed to create a tenancy in common. Any dockominium created before 2007 is grandfathered. Also, if you had a permit for the facility before the conversion, the permit is valid. If permits were received after dockominium creation, those too are valid. Permits for piers before condo conversion are lawful and may not be rescinded or changed based on conversion to condos. For more information on the Abbey Marina dockominiums, visit AbbeyMarina.com.