State committee members wonder if ‘the ledge’ should be part of incorporation area

Brian Roebke photo
Tanya Fonesca of GRAEF, a consultant for the Town of Wrightstown, answers questions via teleconference during last week’s meeting of the Department of Administration’s Incorporation Review Board.

By Brian Roebke
Is “the ledge” part of Greenleaf?
The Department of Administra-tion’s Incorporation Review Board will have to answer that question in their upcoming meeting regarding the Town of Wrightstown’s application to turn part of the town into the Village of Greenleaf.
Near the end of last week’s public hearing, board member Rich Eggleston posed the question of people living on “the ledge” being part of Greenleaf.
The entire geographic area is considered Greenleaf by the U.S. Postal Service, but that service territory is very large and includes portions of the towns of Holland and Morrison as well.
“This is a very different application from any one that I’ve seen so far because of the geographical stuff,” Eggleston said. “The fact that we have the Niagara Escarp-ment that sort of splits the town and how are we going to deal with that? That’s a real challenge.”
Chairperson Dawn Vick acknow-ledged that’s probably going to be a big discussion topic at the board’s next meeting.
The proposed village must meet predetermined standards including population and land area, among other things. The area of “the ledge” was included to help meet both of those standards.
DOA staff member Erich Schmidtke noted “the ledge” is about 100 feet higher than the rest of the proposed village and not as well connected to the community center in the area of Highway 57 and Highway 96 as the rest of the area. “Perhaps over time there may be more connected but right now it’s pretty limited to the ledge,” he said, observing only one road connecting the upper and lower portions to the remainder of the community center.
The land use on “the ledge” is much different than in the center of the community because lot sizes are much larger and home values are much higher.
He questioned whether this area was “compact and homogenous” with the center of Greenleaf or the existing town outside of the petition area or on its own.
When asked what plans were for the land between the core area of Greenleaf and “the ledge,” town consultant Tanya Fonesca of GRAEF said it’s not something that has been discussed.
Board member William Goehring asked why the decision was made to include “the ledge” in the incorporation area.
Goehring said people normally want to annex because they want water and sewer and that’s not something that will happen anytime soon on “the ledge.”
Fonseca said the community members who live in that area identify with Greenleaf, and noted those residents were engaged early in the process about their interest and many of them signed incorporation papers. She called “the ledge” part of the soul of the community.
Working on behalf of the Village of Wrightstown, Mike Slavney of Vandewalle & Associates, said he believed the area of “the ledge” was included in the petition because it was the only way to draw the map to meet the requirement of density in the area beyond the core.
He also noted the “stark differences” between the historic hamlet of Greenleaf and “the non-urban ledge” that focused on lot size and property value.
Zoning in the historic core is mostly R-1, B-1, and I-1, while in the area beyond the core, almost all of the area is zoned ag residential.
“Not urban residential, ag residential,” Slavney said.
Fonseca thought “the ledge” added diversity to the proposed village and as a certified planner, it’s a positive in her view.
Schmidtke noted the sanitary sewer service area is different than the proposed village boundary, but there is potential to add to that area but was not optimistic about the proposed village being able to serve the area on top of “the ledge.”
He called the sanitary sewer issue “a little messy.”
Fonseca noted the Village of Wrightstown’s sewer service area didn’t match its municipal boundary.
Schmidtke spoke about the characteristics of the territory standard, noting they haven’t evaluated a lot of isolated communities like this one recently but they did many of them in the early years after the program was created in 1959.
Attorney Robert Gagnon, representing the Village of Wrights-town, questioned the petition meeting the community center standard. “There’s no grocery store, there’s no retail stores … it’s a roundabout with a diner that is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., a gas station, a bank, and there’s a farm supply store,” he said. Editor’s note: the restaurant opens at 6 a.m., not 7 a.m.
Another factor is the quarry that the town asked to be exempt from the application because it’s not going to be developed at any time in the near future. Schmidtke believed it was appropriate to waive this area and noted granting a wavier will make or break the petition request.
Schmidtke was concerned about the tax rate for the proposed village, noting the rate would be the third lowest in the state. “Starting a community off with such a bare-bones budget and such a bare-bones tax rate could be problematic,” he said, noting it could put the village in a financial bind in the future.
Town Chairman Bill Verbeten told the board the proposed village is in good shape, with an up-to-date sewer and water infrastructure and the roads were all repaired within the past few years.
Town Accountant Virginia Hinz from CliftonLarsonAllen LLP believes the sanitary sewer district is in great financial condition.
Schmidtke was satisfied with the impact on the remnant town, but when asked for additional comments, Gagnon said he believed the plan was to incorporate the hamlet of Greenleaf and then create an agreement between the two boards to create one 32 sq. mile village, with some of the land 4-5 miles from the hamlet.
He thought that took away the rights of the town residents to choose whether they want to become part of the village.
Town of Wrightstown Attorney James Kalny reminded the incorporation board that Gagnon’s thoughts were entirely speculative.
“It’s far from a done deal that there’s going to be some sort of a ‘Harrison two-step’ and probably more importantly, I don’t believe that’s an appropriate consideration at this time,” he said.
Review board member Steve Ponto noted no members of the current town board live in the proposed incorporation area and wondered who would govern the new village. Kalny said that was true but there were two or three residents interested in being part of the village government.
The incorporation review board meets again on Wednesday, Oct. 21.