Town's bid to become a village sent back to state
Government officials simply can't agree
The Town of Brookfield's request to incorporate as a village has been sent back to the Wisconsin Department of Administration after mediation failed between the town and neighboring municipalities, primarily with the City of Brookfield.
Brookfield City Attorney Karen Flaherty confirmed the move Monday. She said that Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge James Kieffer lifted the stay on the state's review of the incorporation Sept. 20.
Flaherty said she had not heard a timeline for the Department of Administration to review and decide any next steps in the matter.
The town has requested a public hearing from the department.
Erich Schmidtke, a project planner with the Department of Administration, said it could be a few weeks.
"It will take a while to coordinate this," Schmidtke said. "As soon as we can do that, we will hold it at the town - probably the Town Hall."
Brookfield town and city officials did not go into great detail about what went wrong when the sides met in two separate mediations.
They have differing viewpoints.
"I thought (the meetings) were going just fine," said Rick Czopp, town administrator. "I was very surprised when the decision was made."
Jay Walt, a longtime town resident who chairs the Park and Recreation Committee and sits on the Joint Review Board for the recently approved tax incremental financing district, was the petitioner for incorporation.
He said the mediation meetings had two phases.
"There was an ebb and flow to the discussions," Walt said, noting a quiet first meeting and a smoother second meeting on the issue. But, then, he added, city officials "pulled back."
"We have been working on this for a year and a half now," he said, defending town officials' approach. "The town conservatively manages our finances while embracing growth with a keen eye for the future."
The move reportedly has been made in light of the town's proposed Corners development that would act as an economic boost to raise taxes for future improvements.
Despite Walt's description, Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto dismisses the idea that the town should be incorporated.
"I am fundamentally opposed to it because we have too much government with too many governments," Ponto said. "There are a lot of people in the Town of Brookfield who think they are residents of the city. I just had a call from someone who complained that our farmers market was so busy that they couldn't get to their library."
Ponto pointed to a lack of cooperative planning involving the busy commercial areas along Bluemound Road that could be rectified if the town became part of Brookfield or Pewaukee.
"I don't care where the town goes, but it should go into one of the surrounding municipalities," he said.
He also does not like the fact that the town has many commercial properties tied into contracts that don't allow them appealing to annex to other municipalities in exchange for not being charged for enhanced water and sewer services.
Walt said that move helps make the point that the town and the city should get together and work out any differences over incorporation.
"Those contracts are in force for the next 20 years," he said.
The municipalities already have police and fire mutual aid agreements and cooperate in common street repaving and sewer projects.
But Ponto and Czopp disagree over whether the town has adequate police and fire protection as it develop the Corners with a Von Maur Department Store as its anchor.
"They don't have enough," Ponto said.
Czopp pointed to his municipality's debt-free status and the fact that the development also will have its own security.
"We should not have to increase our services, but if we had to, we are in a great position to do so," Czopp said. "I have talked to our police and fire departments. I'm confident."
Other annexation players
The mediation originally was held between the town and nearby municipalities including the cities of Brookfield and Waukesha and the village of Sussex to iron out consolidation issues. The City of Waukesha came to the first meeting, but not the second, Walt noted.
In order for the town to become a village, it needs a required minimum of four square miles of contiguous territory. The town, seeking to protect itself from annexation, has petitioned to annex 288 acres in the town of Waukesha.
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