Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Village president laments failed negotiations
Wrzeszcz: 'The last thing we wanted to do was spend a bunch of bucks'

by Steve Targo

October 18, 2012

GENOA CITY —Village President John Wrzeszcz has said he wanted to avoid litigation.

But it looks like in February 2013, Genoa City officials will be battling the village of Bloomfield’s proposed annexation of the town of Bloomfield in court.

And with next year’s budget preparations already under way, Wrzeszcz said during an Oct. 8 telephone interview he feels like they have run out of options when it comes to avoiding a hefty legal bill.

“The last thing we wanted to do was spend a bunch of bucks,” Wrzeszcz said. “But when you’re pushed into a corner, what are you going to do?”

Along with the village of Genoa City, several entities are opposed to Bloomfield’s annexation plans, including the city of Lake Geneva.

The problem, no matter where you sit on the issue, is that the remaining town of Bloomfield has asked to become a part of the village of Bloomfield, which is nearly a year old.

On Nov. 8, 2011, the majority of town electors approved a referendum to incorporate a 12-square-mile region northeast of Highway H.

In several previous interviews, Bloomfield Village President Ken Monroe has said the original intent was to incorporate the entire town, as an effort to gain control over zoning and land use matters as well as securing the borders of his community.

In Wisconsin, a city or village can annex land from a nearby town at a property owner’s request.

However, if the entire town of Bloomfield were to become a village, the concern from Genoa City and Lake Geneva officials — Wrzeszcz included — is that their communities won’t be able to grow.

On Sept. 25, these communities and other entities started negotiations. After a closed session Oct. 4 meeting, the town and village of Bloomfield boards announced the outcome — for the most part, they agreed to disagree.

Monroe had urged Lake Geneva and Genoa City residents to question their elected officials about it.

“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,” he said Oct. 4.

On the phone Saturday, Wrzeszcz said nobody is showing up at Genoa City Village Board meetings to discuss the issue. On Oct. 8, he discussed the outcome of the negotiations.

“We’d still like to settle with Bloomfield,” Wrzeszcz said. “But there’s no settling when you have no options.”

Growth potential

He said he believed Bloomfield officials entered the negotiations unwilling to compromise.

“As far as we’re concerned, Bloomfield came to the table without negotiating in mind,” Wrzeszcz said.

He also discussed one of the Bloomfield offers made during negotiations.

On Oct. 4, Bloomfield Village Trustee Doug Mushel said they proposed to Genoa City and Lake Geneva that Bloomfield be allowed to annex the larger town properties first. Then, Genoa City and Lake Geneva would have 10 years to convince those property owners to re-annex into their municipalities.

“They came (to negotiations) hoping that we would say, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea,’ but in 10 years, we’d be back to where we are now — without any growth potential,” Wrzeszcz said Oct. 8.

Ten years was a number Wrzeszcz mentioned during a Sept. 21 interview, when he also said Genoa City Village Board members aren’t anxious to annex land any time soon. He also said should the opportunity arise to discuss large-scale development, his village should be able to seize it.

If the remaining town of Bloomfield were to become a village, that would prohibit Genoa City from growing north and west.

To the east, a border agreement is believed to restrict annexation of town of Randall lands, and to the south is the Wisconsin-Illinois border.

But why exactly would Bloomfield’s offer erase Genoa City’s growth potential?

“Once you’re in the village of Bloomfield, why would you decide after a 10-year period to annex into Genoa City?” asked Wrzeszcz.

Budget time

Another problem could be the price tag to fight the proposed Bloomfield annexation in court.

“We’ll have to budget something,” Wrzeszcz said.

But how much?

On Monday, Genoa City Village Clerk-Treasurer Claudia Jurewicz said she has no idea yet.

She said she hopes to meet with Linda Gray, the village’s attorney, to discuss a cost estimate to hire a planner.

“We don’t know how many hours this is going to take, because it’s all based on an hourly wage (with a planner),” Jurewicz said.

On Oct. 8, Wrzeszcz said Genoa City may still work with Lake Geneva to fight Bloomfield’s annexation.

“It will save both of us money,” he said. But Genoa City’s budget proposal work has only recently begun, and whether the two communities will split the bill for a planner remains to be seen.