In Praise of the Boathouse
Previously a source of frustration for Wisconsin lakefront property owners, boathouse regulations and enforcement are finally getting rolled back to more reasonable levels. Grandfathered buildings are in less danger, “wet” boathouse owners suffer less harassment and oversight, and all boathouse owners are enjoying the benefits on a friendlier DNR!
A quick lesson on how Wisconsin defines boathouses. A “wet” boathouse is a boathouse built completely or partially below the Ordinary High Water Mark (OHWM). The OHWM is “the point on the bank or shore up to which the presence and action of the water is so continuous as to leave a distinct mark either by erosion, destruction of terrestrial vegetation or other easily recognized characteristic.” “Dry” boathouses are above the OHWM. Generally speaking, “wet” boathouses are grandfathered. Existing structures may generally be repaired, but no new ones may ever be constructed. “Dry” boathouses are generally always acceptable.
So, what are three new boathouse trends?
- Repair! Property owners let boathouses rot in the past because of the sheer amount of byzantine regulations and draconian penalties for innocent misunderstandings. Today, owners of “wet” boathouses can apply for and receive a repair certification relatively easily. Owners of “dry” boathouses only need to check with the county and can get to work!
- Second living rooms! While owners of “wet” boathouses generally can’t add additional room, “dry” boat house owners are adding refrigerators, freezers, and ranges, game rooms, family rooms, and are generally making the boathouse an extension of their own home. Some of these boathouse additions can actually rival the main house!
- Workshops! Since BOAT is an acronym for “Bring Out Another Thousand [Dollars],” many owners try to save money by doing their own boat maintenance. Some owners construct or enlarge existing boathouses with space to work on their boat. It’s not unusual to see a large room set up with a boat stand, a workbench, and tools. (Rare is the boathouse workshop without a beer fridge, too!) Of course, owners rarely limit these workshops to boating; many fine wood and metalworking projects have come from a boathouse workshop.
Do you need a home for your boat? (Maybe for you, too?) Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions about the process. I will be happy to help!