Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Border talks go nowhere

by Chris Schultz

October 11, 2012

BLOOMFIELD — It appears that a court will have to decide whether electors in the town of Bloomfield will be able to decide whether they will become a part of the village of Bloomfield.

A court date of Feb. 18-20 before Judge James L. Carlson has already been scheduled.

Motions, including those for summary judgment or dismissal, may be filed by the parties in the next month, said Bloomfield Village Attorney Brian Schuk.

At an Oct. 4 joint meeting of the town and village of Bloomfield boards, members of both boards said they were frustrated with the negotiating and delaying tactics adopted by the village of Genoa City and the city of Lake Geneva.

The village and town of Bloomfield wish to merge into a larger village of Bloomfield through a referendum annexation. The process would be the same as that used by the villages of Bristol and Caledonia, which also started out as smaller villages that annexed their surrounding towns with the permission the town electors.

But the Bloomfields’ plans are being challenged by Lake Geneva and Genoa City, who claim they each need a section of the town of Bloomfield for their own, logical growth plans.

Bloomfield town and village officials said they’re concerned about the cost of the pending litigation.

They also urged residents of Lake Geneva and Genoa City to question their council members and trustees about those costs.

“I continue to wonder if the residents of Lake Geneva and Genoa City realize how much this is going to cost if it goes to trial,” said Bloomfield Village President Ken Monroe.

He said the village is still open to negotiations with either Lake Geneva or Genoa City regarding annexations into the village of Bloomfield.

Representatives from the Bloomfields met with representatives from Genoa City and Lake Geneva at a special mediation session Sept. 28 at the Walworth County Judicial Center. The town and village of Bloomfield officials hoped the five-hour session, mediated by retired Judge Robert Kennedy, would head off a court battle over the proposed annexation referendum.

The only thing settled in the five-hour negotiation session was that two small parcels of the town, one owned by Lake Geneva Joint 1 School District, and the other by Immanuel Lutheran Church, Lake Geneva, were allowed to annex into the city, said Bloomfield Village Attorney Brian Schuk.

The town had already agreed not to contest those annexations.

The owners of the properties requested annexation into Lake Geneva, and the city council agreed to take the parcels at its Sept. 10 meeting.

Schuk said the paperwork allowing the annexations was turned over to Judge James Carlson for his signature.

“That’s about all that happened in mediation,” Schuk said.

The major part of the negotiation offerings made by the town and village were either rejected or not even addressed by Genoa City and Lake Geneva, Schuk said.

The conflict between the new village and Lake Geneva and Genoa City has to do with differing visions for the as-yet unincorporated sections of the town of Bloomfield.

Lake Geneva is still looking to expand south into sections of the town west of Highway 120. It has its eyes on the Pioneer Mobile Home Park, and property in the town owned by the Lake Geneva Economic Development Corp.

Genoa City can’t expand east or south because of county and state lines, so its only pathway to growth is to the north and west.

Genoa City is looking to expand as far west as Thunderbird Road and north along the Nippersink Creek.

Pieces of the town of Bloomfield also remain embedded within the city and village limits of Lake Geneva and Genoa City.

Doug Mushel, a Bloomfield village trustee, said the village offered to allow the city and village to annex those bits and pieces.

According to Mushel, for the larger parcels outside of Lake Geneva and Genoa City’s municipal limits, the town and village offered this proposal:

n The village of Bloomfield would annex those parts of the town of Bloomfield first.

n Lake Geneva and Genoa City would then have 10 years to convince the owners of those parcels to de-annex from Bloomfield and re-annex to either Lake Geneva or Genoa City.

Mushel said Bloomfield officials spent most of their time at the Sept. 28 meeting dealing with Genoa City.

After making the offer for a 10-year agreement to de-annex properties that wished to become part of Genoa City, Genoa City made a counteroffer of 50 years.

But Shuck said he reminded the village officials that, by state law, the duration of boundary agreements between municipalities is limited to 10 years. He cited state statute 66.0301 (6) (b) which limits municipal boundary agreements to 10 years.

Contacted after the Bloomfield joint meeting, Dan Draper, Lake Geneva city attorney, said the Bloomfields’ offer to detach those sections of annexed township wasn’t as generous as it sounds. He said the offer was that the sections offered to Lake Geneva and Genoa City would have to detach and re-annex all at once. A progression of parcels detaching from the village of Bloomfield and reattaching to either Genoa City or Lake Geneva would not be allowed.

The village of Bloomfield was created in December 2011. The new municipality pulled together some of the most heavily populated segments of the town in and around the Pell Lake area. An attempt to incorporate the town as a whole was first challenged by Genoa City and Lake Geneva, and then rejected by the state.

A scaled back effort to create a new village was successful.

However, the new village contacted residents living in the remnant of the town, offering them a chance to annex by petition into the new village.

Many residents in the town supported the small annexation with the anticipation that they would be allowed to petition for annexation into the village later.

Dan Schoonover, Bloomfield Town Board chairman said town residents want their part of Walworth County to remain rural. The best way to do that is to incorporate.

Once inside the village of Bloomfield limits, residents believe they can maintain their rural lifestyle, a lifestyle they expect to disappear if they were to be annexed by either Lake Geneva or Genoa City.