Bloomfield offers town of Beloit advice on incorporation attempt
Village of Bloomfield President Ken Monroe has advice for the town of Beloit: Be prepared for a long but rewarding incorporation process.
“It was rough,” Monroe said.
Bloomfield incorporated part of the town into a village in 2010 but got considerable pushback from surrounding municipalities, Monroe said.
The city of Lake Geneva, for example, was opposed because having a new village on its border would prevent it from annexing land in that direction.
Monroe said incorporation was about self-preservation.
“As they (annex) more and more land from you, it just takes your tax base away,” Monroe said.
“Becoming a village was really a good thing,” Monroe said, noting that having definitive borders gives a sense of security.
To stop the city of Beloit from annexing land, the town of Beloit is taking steps to incorporate part of the town into a village, Town Administrator Ian Haas said.
The town of Beloit has discussed incorporation before but has never come this far in the process, Haas said.
At a recent town meeting, the town board voted 3-2 to gather the 50 signatures needed submit a petition and application to a circuit court to start the process of incorporation.
While the town of Beloit hasn't received a lot of pushback from surrounding municipalities, the residents living in the section of the town that would not be incorporated are less enthusiastic, Haas said.
The area east of County D and south of Town Line Road would be incorporated into a village, while the area west of County D would become a smaller town of Beloit.
To quell the concerns of residents living west of County D, the town board hired a lawyer and Town Board Supervisor Jim Stevens is coordinating discussion between west side residents and the attorney to ensure their needs are addressed.
“There will be provisions to ensure that the village will provide service to the remnant town,” Haas said.
To continue providing services to the remnant area, the proposed village could:
-- Annex the remnant town into the new village. For this to happen, 51 percent of town residents would have to sign a petition requesting to be annexed.
-- Consolidate the town and village via a government resolution. The village and remnant town boards would have to pass identical resolutions agreeing to consolidate into one municipality .
-- Enter into an intergovernmental agreement.
Which is chosen depends on what west side residents decide is best, Haas said. If the west side requested to be left alone, the village would respect that, he said.
Any agreement between the two municipalities would come after the incorporation process is complete, Haas said.
The two sides are in the process of discussing terms, Haas said.
The west side of the town has spoken with Allen Reuter, an attorney from Madison, to represent its residents, but Reuter has not met with residents or been contracted, he said.
Stevens, representing the west side committee on the town board, declined to comment.
Alliant Energy by 2020 is planning to construct a new power plant in what would be in the new village, meaning the village would see two-thirds of the shared revenues from the plant, which would help offset any loss from the village having a smaller property tax base that the current town, Haas said.
County revenues will likely not see a significant drop, if any, even with the shift in shared revenues because of the amount of energy the plant is planning to produce, Haas said.
Bloomfield, a village in southwestern Walworth County, wanted to stop neighboring municipalities such as the city of Lake Geneva and the village of Genoa City from annexing land from the town, Monroe said.
Bloomfield tried incorporation twice, Monroe said. The first attempt failed because only a small portion of the town tried to incorporate. The second, successful attempt included two-thirds of the town for incorporation, Monroe said.
“We were trying to incorporate the whole township, and the incorporation board came up and said we were taking too much land,” Monroe said.
The state Incorporation Review Board decides if proposed cities and villages meet statutory standards.
For a town to incorporate, it first has to collect 50 signatures and file an application in circuit court, according to the state Department of Administration website.
If the application and signatures are approved, the application can be sent to the Incorporation Review Board with a $25,000 application fee, according to the website.
The review board has 180 days to decide, during which it could collect public opinion, according to the website.
If the board approves the application, the town must hold a referendum in the area to be incorporated. If that passes, the designated area will incorporate, according to the website.
State statutes require the review board to consider the homogeneity of the proposed village or city while also considering the impact it might have politically, environmentally or socially.
The board considers the motivations and rationale of the proposed village, as well, according to the statutes provided on the website.
The town of Beloit is waiting to gather signatures until residents on the west side of the town meet with their attorney and work together on the best course of action, Haas said.
Haas said the town hopes to have a border agreement with the city of Beloit by the end of summer. He declined to speculate on what it would look like because it is so early in the process.
Once the border agreement is drawn, incorporation should be a 12- to 18-month process, he said.
Drawing a border agreement for Bloomfield was one of the most difficult parts, Monroe said. It took multiple attempts to finally reach an agreement with Genoa City and Lake Geneva, he said.
“It's a lot of fun, it's a lot of time, and it's a lot of money,” Monroe said.