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A minor victory for Bloomfield's incorporation effort

Judge rejects Lake Geneva, Genoa City's motions

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February 16, 2011 | 09:13 AM
Bloomfield — On Monday, Town Chairman Ken Monroe smiled when asked if he was surprised by the outcome of the Thursday, Feb. 10, Walworth County Circuit Court hearing about his community's petition to turn a 16-square-mile region into a village.

At the hearing, Judge John Race denied motions by the city of Lake Geneva and the village of Genoa City to intervene in the town's request.

Now, Race is expected to sign an order to that effect by the end of the month and Bloomfield's request would advance to the state Department of Administration.

That's the governmental body which decides if the incorporation request makes sense. And if so, whether people like Monroe will reach the final stage of their long-running battle to create a village of Bloomfield — a referendum election.

But it appears the town achieved a minor victory.

"I was surprised, not so much with (Race denying the motion by) Genoa City, because I really didn't think they had much to go on ... but with what Race decided with Lake Geneva," Monroe said. "We did change our borders near them, but I figured (Lake Geneva) would still intervene. I didn't feel they presented a very good case, but it still surprises me."

It has been slow and occasionally rough for Monroe and incorporation proponents.

For almost five years, the group in favor of incorporation has gone back and forth, from collecting signatures for petitions to public hearings in Bloomfield and Madison.

In 2008, Lake Geneva and Genoa City filed motions to intervene in Bloomfield's request.

In 2009, the DOA basically told the three communities to establish border agreements, but that never happened.

In June 2010, the state determined the proposed village request didn't meet the requirements, but gave Bloomfield another chance to file.

The town did, without having to pay another $20,000 application fee, and that's what prompted the Feb. 10 hearing.

With each kick at the cat, incorporation proponents removed more areas from the suggested village map.

This latest one excludes Lake Ivanhoe and other areas contiguous to Lake Geneva and Genoa City.

"We've done everything the DOA asked us to do," Monroe said Monday. "We shrunk down the borders and that was their biggest complaint, that we were taking in too much farmland."

Now, once again, for the third time in the last few years, incorporation proponents are at the mercy of the DOA and its Incorporation Review Board.

When asked what the town's chances are of passing this stage, Monroe threw back his head and laughed.

"All I can tell you is the odds are 50-50, knowing them," he said. "I was 99.9 percent certain on both tries in the past and they gave it back to us. I guess that's why I'm not a gambler."

It appears Monroe wasn't the only one surprised by the outcome of the Feb. 10 hearing.

Anthony Coletti, an attorney representing the Bloomfield incorporation proponents, said Friday he and his clients also are happy with Race's decision.

"But I can't say I thought it would be a slam dunk," Coletti said.

Other side of the coin

The reasons Lake Geneva and Genoa City wanted to intervene include lack of sewer service in the proposed village of Bloomfield, concerns of how the incorporation would affect other existing services and limits to the future growth of these communities.

The Feb. 3 motion from Lake Geneva City Attorney Dan Draper states 10 reasons why the community wants to intervene.

Aside from objecting to the proposed incorporation and being close to the remaining town and suggested village, Draper's motion states the proposed village would be larger than what the state previously recommended "after the previous petition for incorporation was denied."

Draper also states the proposed village "is too big and may have adverse financial impacts" and impact the amount of available services to itself and the remaining town.

"The city of Lake Geneva has an interest in the allocation of services between the proposed village and the remnant town after incorporation in that it may be affected by the amount of mutual aid that it may be required to provide in the future," Draper stated.

Water and sewer services also were addressed in Draper's motion.

"The city of Lake Geneva is better suited to provide future water and sewer services to some areas proposed for incorporation by the petitioner, and the proposed village may not practically or financially be able to provide water and sewer services to some of the areas proposed to be incorporated if current well and septic systems in these areas fail," Draper said. "The failure of such systems may adversely affect the citizens of the city of Lake Geneva."

Despite the reasons brought forth by Genoa City and Lake Geneva, Coletti said Race argued those communities "share none of the boundaries" or overlap with the proposed village of Bloomfield.

According to Coletti, Draper and Genoa City Attorney Linda Gray presented their arguments Feb. 10 concerning mutual aid agreements and the viability of the proposed village of Bloomfield, "but the judge agreed with us that this is what the Incorporation Review Board should consider."

"He sided with us that the Incoropration Review Board was already mandated by law to protect the city and the village in that respect," Coletti said. "If they decide municipal services can't be provided, they would decide not to recommend incorporation at this point. But all these issues have been studied ad nauseam."

The near future

Now, Monroe said the DOA has 180 days to review the request.

He said he expects there will be another public hearing, but it will be in Madison — not Bloomfield, which is where the hearing occurred in spring 2010 because of the motions to intervene from Lake Geneva and Genoa City.

However, just because Race threw the motions out doesn't mean Lake Geneva and Genoa City has to remain silent on the issue.

Coletti said representatives from those communities can attend the public hearing to register input and it would count "the same as anybody else's."

"They can certainly show up for the hearing (and) present evidence, but there shouldn't be any other procedings involving the city or the village," he said.

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