Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Village president on annexation

by Steve Targo

February 28, 2013

BLOOMFIELD — “I think everyone’s just sitting back, taking in what happened.”

Village President Ken Monroe said that on the phone Feb. 21, almost a month after a Walworth County judge dismissed the request to annex the town of Bloomfield.

It was a decision Judge James Carlson made at a Jan. 23 hearing, in favor of the city of Lake Geneva’s motion to dismiss, that Monroe said, in his opinion, “didn’t give the people true democracy.”

The idea was simple. And complicated.

Several years ago, back when there was only a town of Bloomfield, a group of residents launched an effort to incorporate in an attempt to gain tighter zoning control and preserve Bloomfield’s boundaries.

State law allows town property owners to request annexation by nearby cities and villages.

Officials from the state Department of Administration decided the town as a whole didn’t meet incorporation requirements.

However, they believed a 12-square-mile region northeast of Highway H did.

After a successful referendum, the state certified the new village of Bloomfield in December 2011.

But remember that state law allowing cities and villages to annex town land?

Village and town of Bloomfield officials did, and it wasn’t long after certification that the town asked the village to annex all of its territories.

Now, in the wake of Carlson’s decision, it appears the Bloomfields won’t appeal.

“We won’t at this time,” Monroe said. “The cost to the taxpayers is my biggest concern.”

A story on the financial side of this issue will appear in a future Regional News.

On Feb. 21, Monroe said he wasn’t surprised by Carlson’s decision. He said it’s “very seldom” that a judge would rule in favor of a community in the Bloomfields’ position when intervenors have come forward.

So why go through it then?

“There’s always a chance,” Monroe said. “We were just trying to do what we started to do in the beginning.”

The decision

He said the process they followed is a “backwards scenario.” Nevertheless, it was required by statutes.

To complete the proposed mass annexation, county circuit court would have to determine, basically, whether the request made sense and was best for all involved.

Part of why Carlson granted Lake Geneva’s motion was the fact there are “islands” of the town of Bloomfield surrounded by city property — or land Monroe said once was in the town, but had been annexed by Lake Geneva.

Because it was a mass annexation request, to grant it would mean, hypothetically, that these islands would belong to the village of Bloomfield.

These lands would not be contiguous with the rest of the village, or so was the stance of the opposition to the Bloomfields’ request.

However, Monroe said past annexations by Lake Geneva and Genoa City of town land created the situation.

“So, really, they were holding us up for something they did,” he said.

Had the judge ruled in favor of the Bloomfields, the final stage of the annexation process would have been another referendum in which town voters would decide if they would become a part of the village.

That’s why Monroe said he felt the people didn’t have the chance to make the decision.

“It could have gone to a referendum and the people could have voted it down, but at least they’d have a chance to vote,” Monroe said. “This decision took that privilege away from the people.”

But Monroe said village officials have spent a lot of energy on the annexation.

He said he hopes now, officials can focus on other matters.

“I don’t really think this has impacted the village much at all,” he said. “I think as long as we have a great relationship between the town and the village, things will go along pretty smoothly.”

Future annexations

It seems, however, that this isn’t the last you’ll hear about annexations in Bloomfield.

Recently, town chairman Dan Schoonover expressed concern that a large number of property owners could ask the village to annex their lands, potentially reducing the amount of tax revenue and otherwise create an adverse financial impact on the budget.

Monroe said when an incorporated community annexes land, it has to pay five years’ worth of the estimated tax revenue from that property to the town. It’s possible, he said, that the remaining town of Bloomfield could request annexation, piece by piece, into the village. Which makes this the big-money question of the moment: Has anyone asked to be annexed yet? “People are asking about it, but there’s been no papers filed,” Monroe said.

Any large properties? He said there are rumors, but he wouldn’t say which properties those rumors have centered on “because, again, it’s really just rumors.”

So how would village officials handle annexation requests?

“We will never turn anyone down who wants to be in the village,” Monroe said.

He said that’s his own take on the issue, but he would hope the other village of Bloomfield trustees would agree.

Monroe didn’t see Carlson’s decision as a crushing defeat.

Instead, he called it “disappointing.”

“I won’t say it’s completely dead,” Monroe said about a future village which includes the remaining town of Bloomfield. “There’s always a glimmer of hope there.”