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Town of Jackson residents object to proposed agreement with village

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BY THOMAS J.MCKILLEN
MANAGING EDITOR
While the village and town of Jackson want the state Department of Administration (DOA) to approve a Cooperative Planned Agreement (CPA), several residents of the town spoke out during a public hearing on Feb. 26 against the current version of the agreement.

The public hearing, held at Living Word Lutheran High School, provided residents from both communities to comment on the current version of the agreement to staff from the state Department of Administration.

John St. Peter, an attorney representing the village, responds to objections to the agreement that were presented during the hearing.
Photo by Thomas J. McKillen

The issue revolves around land from the town that is to be attached into the village as part of past border agreements. The village and town of Jackson have been in the process of mediation in an attempt to resolve a lawsuit involving a border and revenue sharing agreement that was first approved by the two communities in 1999, with amended agreements approved in 2005 and 2008.

The boundary issue has been a legal matter after the village approved an ordinance in December 2014 stating certain properties in the town would be attached to the village as of Jan. 1, 2015 under language in the border agreement. An organization representing town residents called Jackson Town Residents Against Annexation (JTRAA) went to court to challenge the village action and received an injunction in their favor that prevented the attachment. The town of Jackson was listed as involuntary plaintiff in the civil case. In December 2015 Washington County Circuit Judge Todd Martens ruled in favor of the village that the border agreement is enforceable. In February 2016, Martens ruled in favor of the JTRAA argument that certain conditions of attachment were not met by the village. Martens then asked the sides to mediate the case in an attempt to resolve the matter out of court.
After reaching a Memorandum of Understanding on a possible agreement, the town and village negotiated the Cooperative Planned Agreement, which was submitted to the state Department of Administration in December. The agreement calls for attaching specific
portions of land from the town into the village in 2021 and 2030. A specific parcel
at the southeast portion of the town known as “Palorama Farms” will be attached immediately under the agreement.

In opening statements, attorneys for the village and town asked the DOA officials at the hearing to approve the Cooperative Planned Agreement. “The Town Board has asked the DOA to approve this agreement,” Tim Andringa, an attorney representing the town in the matter, told agency officials. He later added that “there’s been a long, long public process with a lot of public input already with respect to this matter. The town and the village, I believe, want you to approve this plan.”

Joe Cincotta, an attorney representing JTRAA, said “the core problem” with past agreements was a lack of notice that the attachments of lands from the town to the village. Following court rulings, all parties started work on the Cooperative Planned Agreement. Cincotta said during a public hearing in the fall, he said he and other town residents expressed concerned about the attachment of the Palorama Farms area, which would
become a village “island” surrounded by town land. Cincotta said he and town officials also expressed concern about town residents being able to keep their town addresses and not convert to the village system. Following the fall public hearing, the JTRAA filed a request in
December for a public hearing. Cincotta said “additional language” was included in the CPA regarding addresses and whether the addresses of town residents would be changed once their properties would be attached to the village.

“The current first responders and emergency service providers are familiar with the status quo. Changing addresses will not eliminate confusion but could create it,” he said.
During comments from residents, Town of Jackson resident Winter Hess said when previous boundary agreements were approved, they were not recorded at the Register of Deeds office. As a result, when he and other town residents purchased their property they were not made aware the town would be attached from the town to the village. Hess said the town property owners who would be affected by the new CPA “are not in agreement with leaving the town.” Hess cited information based on petitions signed by residents in several
subdivisions, and said 93 percent of residents in the Twin Creeks, 86 percent of residents in the Hidden Creek, and 85 percent of residents in the Sherman Parc subdivisions are opposed with having their properties attached to the town. Town resident Freda Johnson said she and her husband said they purchased their lot in 2005. They said they chose
the town of Jackson for its “rural feel” after being residents in the city of Milwaukee for several years.

“We wanted to live in the town of Jackson,” Johnson said. Johnson also said Paloroma Farms should not be attached to the village right away but instead should be attached with other town properties in the village in 2021.

Town resident Bill Saari cited new language in the CPA regarding addresses which states “the village makes no representation of warranties that the relevant property owners will be allowed to retain their post attachment addresses within the attached territory. The relevant property owners assume all risk over any confusion relating to having a separate
postal street address system that differs from the balance of the village.” Saari said the Post Office and Washington County Sheriff’s Department have not objected to keeping the current addresses for the town properties that will be attached to the village. Saari said the language added stating the town residents assume “all risk” to retaining their
current addresses “is unfair to us as citizens and should be taken out prior to the
agreement being approved, by the Department of Administration.

Town of Jackson resident Bob Seidel cited petitions signed by the town residents who are opposed to the current CPA.

“There is a statistically significant portion of the population who oppose this agreement,” Seidel said.

More than a dozen town residents spoke out against the current CPA. Following a break in the meeting, attorneys for the town, village, and JTRAA provided final comments. John St. Peter, an attorney representing the village, said “the village won in court” regarding the original boundary agreement. A judge later ruled the proposed CPA is consistent with a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the village, town and JTRAA. St. Peter later said the village extended sewer and water into the town areas that were jeopardized by a gas leak in 2012 without seeking to annex those properties. St. Peter noted the village agreed to delay the annexation of properties that were scheduled to be attached from 2015 to 2021. St. Peter said the village agreed to allow town residents to keep their addresses once those lands were attached to the village.

“We agreed to the addresses. We didn’t want that. That is part of the mediation, we agreed to it,” St. Peter said of allowing town residents to keep their addresses after attachment.

Andringa addressed the immediate attachment of the Palorama farms development
right away instead of in 2021. According to Andringa, the Memorandum of Understanding which preceded the CPA had language allowing owners of town property to annex into the village. Andringa said the developer to the Palorama Farms site sought to join the village right away. Andringa said the town could go to court to object to the annexation. However, the land would have been attached to the village in 2021 anyway and the town would have had to pay attorney fees if it lost the case.

At the end of the public hearing, a representative from the Department of Administration said the agency would issue a final ruling on the proposed Cooperative Planned Agreement between the town and village on April 19. Written comments from residents will be accepted by the agency through March 8.

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