By Brian Roebke
Mark June 20, 2023, down in the history books as the birthdate for the Village of Greenleaf after voters living inside the proposed incorporation in the hamlet of Greenleaf overwhelmingly voted to break away from the town and form a village.
With 115 voters entering the Town of Wrightstown Hall in Greenleaf or voting absentee, 106 of them voted yes and just nine voted no, an astounding 92 percent approval rate. Just 51 percent approval was needed.
“Our hard work paid off,” Town of Wrightstown Chairman Bill Verbeten said shortly after learning the rousing support for the incorporation.
“The people who are going to be living in the Village of Greenleaf are going to be happy with what they’re doing, and we can try to keep everything as normal as it was before and we don’t have to worry about the annexation and people taking land away from us anymore and we’ll just work from here,” he said.
The process started after Village of Wrightstown trustees and Town of Wrightstown supervisors could not agree on a border agreement between the two communities that are connected by Highway 96.
The town petitioned the Wisconsin Incorporation Review Board for the area to become a village, but the first attempt was turned down because board members deemed the area not compact.
The town board redrew the lines and just short of a year later, submitted its second petition that was then approved.
The new Village of Greenleaf covers just one square half-mile of land, centered around the intersection of highways 32/57 and 96, and encompasses the current sanitary sewer district.
The four-year process had many twists and turns – and many lawyers – where the town board thought they had it right, then found out otherwise and had a delay.
“We had Greaf as our planner and we lost two head planners while we were doing this, so then we had to come back in with different people and we worked through it and finally got it,” he said.
The Wisconsin Incorporation Review Board approved the second petition in April and after some negotiation with the Village of Wrightstown, an agreement was reached that will shape the future of the two villages and the Town of Wrightstown, which will likely become part of history.
Brown County Circuit Court Judge John Zakowski ultimately had to approve the special election to be held where only voters inside the proposed incorporation area could vote.
It should take more than four years for the final borders to be determined after property owners left in the Town of Wrightstown can annex their property into the Village of Wrightstown if their land is connected to the present village.
After a period of about four years, the Village of Wrightstown will not contest any town annexation into the new Village of Greenleaf.
At some point, the town board and new village board are expected to make an agreement to merge the remaining town land into the new village. In the meantime, the town and village boards will enter into an agreement for the town to provide services to the village.
“We’re working with our accountant to make sure this is financially feasible for everybody,” Verbeten said. “We don’t want to leave anybody out, everybody’s going to be represented either by the board that we have right now or the new village board.”
The next step is for the town to hold an election within 90 days for three seats on the new village board.
Verbeten is aware of some people interested in serving on the new board, but they would rather not be in it for the long haul.
Verbeten and current elected officials, who all will remain in the town, have a long-term wish to represent the new village that covers the land presently governed by the Town of Wrightstown.
Apparently nobody Verbeten has discussed becoming village board members wants to stay on for more than the minimum amount of time.
Current town officials would have to have their names appear on the ballot to be elected to the new village board, so there aren’t any guarantees.
Town Clerk Donna Martzahl said despite some confusion over who could vote, there were only minor issues on Election Day at the town hall.
Just a few voters who were not eligible came to vote, and they understood why they could not after it was explained to them.
By Brian Roebke