By Brian Roebke
The Town of Wrightstown government received some bad news last week when they learned their request to incorporate the hamlet of Greenleaf into a village was denied by the Wisconsin Incorporation Review Board at a virtual hearing on Oct. 21.
The board has six standards that must be met before the municipality can call for a referendum of residents to approve the request, and the board said the town met all but one of them, “Characteristics of the Territory.”
The issue board members had was including the area commonly known as “The Ledge” inside the incorporation area, noting it was too far different geographically.
This standard requires the petitioned territory to be sufficiently compact and homogenous to function as a city or village. Factors include natural boundaries, transportation network, employment, business, social and recreational opportunities, population distribution, and land use patterns.
It was noted Greenleaf’s historic core has a long history of being recognized as a community, with common businesses and services, but “The Ledge” was not part of that.
Additionally, the neighborhoods surrounding the community center contain the most densely residential development pattern, with small lots and a grid-style street network that helps the area show good compactness and homogeneity and compares favorably to the standard.
However, the board noted the petition also included an area to the east which tends to be physically isolated from the rest of the proposed village by the 100-foot Niagara Escarpment as well as by vacant lands and an active quarry.
But the board wrote in its determination letter, “As a result, the board cannot find this standard met, particularly as it relates to compactness. However, the board does believe that this standard could potentially be met if the petition were revised and resubmitted to include primarily Greenleaf’s historic core area.”
It was also noted by member Steve Ponto, mayor of Brookfield representing the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, the ledge area doesn’t have sewer and water.
Board member Rich Eggleston of Fitchburg, a representative of the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities, noted elevation seems to be the key issue.
“The challenges of providing services to an area that’s 100 ft. different in elevation is a serious issue and probably we should take that into account … and it’s not met,” he said.
William Goehring of Random Lake, representing the Wisconsin Towns Association, felt “The Ledge” looks like a rural subdivision to him. “It doesn’t look like a village to me,” he said.
Sharon Leair of Genessee Depot, another WTA rep, agreed with the others.
Although it was determined to meet financial standards, board members were concerned the proposed village’s lean proposed budget may hamstring it raising money in the future with tax levy limits.
Ponto was concerned with the “Harrison Two-Step” that the board could not consider.
“I think it might be worth noting that with the legislature,” he said. “We should be able to take that type of thing into account.”
“I think the legislature should definitely deal with the Harrison Two-Step and all other dance moves that the petitioners are likely to make,” he said.
Leair thought the residents of the town remnant should have the ability to annex into either the Village of Greenleaf or Village of Wrightstown. “I think it’s a matter of where those people want to pay taxes,” she said.
Goehring said the board would never allow the entire town to incorporate and the Harrison Two-Step would allow that to happen.
The town was encouraged to resubmit its application and Chairperson Dawn Vick said she would consider waiving an additional $250,000 application fee if it’s refiled within one year.
She said that time would allow the town to revise its petition area as well as the town to negotiate a boarder agreement with the Village of Wrightstown.
By Brian Roebke