Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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DOA may decide on Bloomfield’s village this month

by Steve Targo

July 28, 2011

Bloomfield — Court motions. Public hearings. Failed attempts to hash out border agreements. At this point, this is all that's come of the effort to turn a 16-square-mile region of the town into a village.

But soon, the State Department of Administration's Incorporation Review Board may decide the future of this effort.

"They're expected to make a decision some time in August," Bloomfield Town Chairman Ken Monroe said during a July 13 interview.

It's up to this board to determine whether the town's request is viable. If the board favors the request, then it will be up to incorporation proponents to sell it to their own people. Residents who live in the proposed village area will be asked to approve it during a referendum.

So far, it's taken a long time just to reach this point. Monroe and other incorporation proponents haven't been able to speed through the process of turning part of a town into a village.

Spurred by a desire to gain more control over local affairs such as zoning and land use issues and to protect its borders, incorporation talks peppered local government meetings since the early 2000s. State law allows cities and villages to annex land from a nearby town at a property owner's request. So the thought has been, if Bloomfield can become a village, it can retain its rural character and tax base.

But for nearly five years, the pro-incorporation group has been in a seemingly endless state of back-and-forth ­— collecting signatures, amending the proposed village map, appearing at public hearings both in the town and in Madison.

Then, in 2008, the city of Lake Geneva and the village of Genoa City filed motions to intervene in Bloomfield's request. In 2009, the DOA essentially instructed the three communities to establish border agreements. The communities were unable to formalize anything.

In June 2010, the state determined the town's request, which at that time called for creating a village of about 21 square miles, didn't meet incorporation requirements. However, the state allowed Bloomfield another chance. Without having to pay another $20,000 fee, the town submitted the current request, which involves the area northeast of Highway H, now excluding Lake Ivanhoe and other areas contiguous to Lake Geneva and Genoa City.

Earlier this year, the Walworth County Circuit Court advanced Bloomfield's petition to the DOA and rejected motions by Lake Geneva and Genoa City to intervene. On July 8, the State Court of Appeals denied a motion "for relief pending appeal" from Lake Geneva, according to a court document.

June hearing

The Incorporation Review Board conducted a public hearing June 27 in Madison. Monroe said he and Doug Mushel attended, as did Lake Geneva City Attorney Dan Draper and Genoa City Village Attorney Linda Gray.

According to Monroe, the focus of the hearing was to discuss the compactness and homogeneity of the proposed Bloomfield village. Draper provided a seven-page letter to the board, but it wasn't discussed at the hearing because it wasn't part of the June 27 agenda. However, Monroe said board members can still take Draper's letter into consideration.

Essentially, Draper stated the proposed village does not comply with the board's recommendations.

"The territory in the current petition is substantially the same territory as the failed 2008 petition," he stated. "The territory in the current petition does not describe the territory recommended by the board, (which) told petitioners that it would consider a petition including the Pell Lake community and the area surrounding (it) framed by the wetlands and mucky soils. The territory in the current petition far exceeds the territory which the board suggested in its determination."

He also stated the town wasn't supposed to file a petition which doesn't match the board's recommendations until April 28.

"The court entered an order on April 28, 2011, dismissing the 2008 petition," Draper stated. "Therefore, unless the town submits a petition which describes territory recommended by the board in its determination on that 2008 petition, no petition for the incorporation of the town may be entertained until April 28, 2012."

He stated the Incorporation Review Board previously determined the territory beyond Pell Lake included in the request doesn't meet the standard for compactness, but the natural areas surrounding Pell Lake frame the area physically and help to identify and set apart a future village comprised of this community.

Draper also stated the town's proposed village fails to meet the state's test of homogeneity and compactness and the petition should be denied because of the negative impact the proposed village would have on the remaining town.

"Outside of the Pell Lake community there are scattered areas of residential and industrial development and intervening rural or environmentally sensitive properties," he stated. "Because of these scattered areas … there is also a lack of homogeneity and compactness. It is difficult to understand the relationship of these isolated neighborhoods to the proposed village of Bloomfield."

What Draper calls "fragments" within the community is used when he explains the negative impact of the proposed village on the town. He stated it creates a problem of "community identity."

He stated the budget submitted in the most recent request "merits careful consideration."

"It appears there are going to be shared services between the village and the town remnant," Draper stated. "Unfortunately, there are no proposed agreements submitted with the petition. Without such proposed agreements, there is no true picture of the finances."

He also claims with municipalities seeking to share services with each other to save money, it would be difficult for the city of Lake Geneva to work with the proposed village of Bloomfield.

"The adversarial manner in which the petitioners have handled this petition is contrary to the cooperation that will be necessary for municipalities to function in the future," Draper stated. "It is difficult to perceive how the city of Lake Geneva and the proposed village of Bloomfield will be ever able to operate in the future given the hostile and obstinate stance taken by the petitioners."

Who you calling adversarial?

On July 13, Monroe said he didn't know where Lake Geneva came up with using the term "adversarial" in reference to the Bloomfield petitioners.

"We have never been hostile toward Lake Geneva or Genoa City," he said. "We have tried to sit down with (officials but) the City Council for Lake Geneva wouldn't budge on any of our proposed borders."

Monroe said petitioners attempted to meet Lake Geneva officials halfway and even complied with some of their wishes.

"No matter what borders the petitioners came up with, Lake Geneva would always come up with different borders, downsizing this village," he said.

As for the June hearing, Monroe said Gray claimed Genoa City agreed with Lake Geneva and village and Bloomfield officials couldn't come up with any borders while negotiating some type of agreement.

Monroe said he disagreed with her. He said Bloomfield and Genoa City officials met "five or six times," including during an open session meeting in Genoa City, and establishing borders wasn't the problem.

"Genoa City wanted us to sign an agreement stating within so many years anyone (in the remaining town of Bloomfield between the proposed village and Genoa City) couldn't annex into any village other than Genoa City," Monroe said. "The Bloomfield board didn't feel it had the right to regulate anyone like that."