Helpful Definitions

Accessory Structure

Those structure found on a property that are incidental to the primary intended use of that property. Examples are: Garages located in a residential area, small storage buildings not used by business customers in a commercial area and roadside stands in an agricultural area.


A lot without water frontage under any form of ownership.

Internal Improvement

Modifications/alterations within a dwelling unit that do not result in the alteration of the dwelling unit envelope. A land use permit is not required for these activities.

Impervious Surface

Surfaces which prevent or impede normal water infiltration and/or cause runoff to other areas. Includes, but not limited to:
  • All buildings, and structures (area measured at roof gable end and eave lines)
  • Stairs, walkways, driveways and parking or other areas, comprised of brick, paver stone, cementitious substances, or any bituminous substance, including asphalt, and
  • Any sub base of plastic or any shield which prevents or impedes water penetration. Decks, stairways and walkways with gaps in their surface structure (e.g., wooden decks with open cracks between the deck boards) allowing water to readily pass through the structure are not considered an impervious surface. Any portion of a township road traversing a lot will not be included as part of the impervious surface for calculation purposes.

Land Disturbing Activities

Construction, grading, filling, excavating or other activities which result in the temporary or permanent removal of vegetative cover, increased potential for soil erosion, increased storm-water runoff volumes or velocities, or increased total area of impervious surfaces and/or activities which include but are not limited to construction on steep slopes, development of private boat landings or access roads to the water body, development of paths to the shoreline requiring disturbance of the land to construct, and development of sand beaches not naturally occurring.

Land Use Permit (LUP)

Frequently referred to as a "building permit:" A permit issued by the Zoning Department for specific uses proposed to take place on a property. Typical uses are the construction of new buildings and other structures, the alteration of and the construction of additions onto existing buildings, relocating a building onto a property and for land disturbing activities such as filling, excavating and grading.


The requirement to restore shoreline buffer functions that have been lost or adversely affected through development.

Navigable Water

All natural inland lakes within Sawyer County and all streams, ponds, sloughs, flowages, and other water within the territorial limits of this County which are navigable under the laws of this State. Under Section 281.31 (2) (d), Wisconsin Statutes, notwithstanding any other provision of law or administrative rule promulgated there under, shoreland ordinances required under Section 59.692, Wisconsin Statutes, and Chapter NR 115, Wisconsin Administrative Code, do not apply to lands adjacent to farm ditches if: Such lands are not adjacent to a natural navigable stream or river; Those parts of such drainage ditches adjacent to such lands were not navigable before ditching; and such lands are maintained in nonstructural use. The State of Wisconsin defines navigable waters as those with a bed differentiated from adjacent uplands and enough water to allow navigation by a recreational craft of the shallowest draft on an annually recurring basis.

Non-Point Source Pollution

Water run-off across the landscape (i.e., lawns, fields, roads and driveways) that washes pollutants such as fertilizer, soil and pesticides into lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater.

Ordinary High-Water Mark (OHWM)

The point on the bank or shore up to which the presence and action of surface water is so continuous as to leave a distinctive mark such as by erosion, destruction or prevention of terrestrial vegetation, predominance of aquatic vegetation, or other easily recognized characteristics.

Public Trust Doctrine

Doctrine based on the State constitution and defined by State statute and case law affirming that all navigable waters shall be forever free and that such waters are held in trust by the Department of Natural Resources. All citizens have the right to use navigable waters for recreational purposes and to enjoy the natural scenic beauty as well as the quality of those waters. The Department of Natural Resources is charged with protecting the public's right to use navigable waters.

Riparian Property Owner

The owner of lands bordering lakes and rivers who have certain rights to the use of those waters adjacent to their property. Riparian rights include using the shoreline and the water and the right to construct piers/docks. In the case of a conflict between the rights of riparian owners and the public's rights, the public's rights are primary.


Lands within the following distances from the ordinary high-water mark of navigable waters: 1,000 feet from a lake, pond, or flowage; and 300 feet from a river or stream or to the landward side of the floodplain, whichever distance is greater.

Shoreline Vegetation Protection Area (SVPA)

A strip of land 35 feet wide inland from the ordinary high-water mark of any navigable body of water, including but not limited to: streams, rivers, ponds, flowage and lakes. Term used anonymously with buffer zone, buffer area and buffer strip.


Any construction, excluding fills, or any production or piece of work artificially built or composed of parts joined together in some definite manner having form, shape, and utility. Examples of structures would include, but not be limited to, concrete, flagstone and block patios; concrete slabs, retaining walls etc.

Principal Structure

The primary structure found on a property that is dependent on the primary intended use of that property. Examples are: Homes in a residential area; stores, shops, offices, banks and restaurants in a commercial area; and homes and barns in an agricultural area.

Use Corridor

Altered area (area created by mowing, pruning and the selective removal of trees, stumps and shrubbery) within the SHORELINE VEGETATION PROTECTION AREA to permit pedestrian access to a water body. Term used synonymously with view corridor and lake access corridor.


Those areas where water is at, near, or above the land surface long enough to be capable of supporting aquatic or hydrophytic vegetation and which have soils indicative of wet conditions.