End of lawsuits in town and village of Waukesha, but border disputes persist


WAUKESHA – The village will remain a village, giving the county two incorporated municipalities called Waukesha, pending any further legal challenges.

But what does this mean for the town and the village, whose entanglements in the courts in recent years have left an open question: how well will they work together in the future?

This is the question left open after years of history between what was originally the town of Waukesha – until its incorporation as a village in 2020 using a process that bypassed the usual procedures for such changes – and the town of Waukesha.

The city admitted that it didn’t like the process, but instead of challenging the temporary law itself, it questioned whether the city was following the spirit of the law.

Decision of the courtroom

Essentially, the city argued that the city’s efforts to integrate used superficial efforts to meet the requirements of the law, avoiding further scrutiny of the state required under a long-standing Wisconsin law. .

Specifically, the city claimed that Waukesha Town’s border agreements with the towns of Vernon and Mukwonago “are not good faith cooperation plans” as they do not meet “statutory criteria for approval.” The lawsuit also joins an earlier lawsuit by the city that challenges the city’s attempt to create a health district, another requirement of the 2015 law.

“This action challenges the incorporation on the grounds that the preconditions for incorporation have not been met,” the lawsuit said. “The city’s intention to create conditions to qualify for the law of incorporation creates plans and name-only districts that do not meet the substantive requirements set out by the law.”

But Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Ralph Ramirez in an oral ruling on July 22 disagreed, saying the village had followed the letter of the law.

City officials have yet to decide whether to take the matter to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

“The city will assess the decision and discuss with city council whether or not we will appeal the decision,” city administrator Kevin Lahner said in a statement Monday (July 26th).

City attorney Brian Running echoed the approach, noting that the issue will likely be raised at the August 3 city council meeting.

But Running suggested the city didn’t totally disagree with Ramirez’s stance on the matter. “I think Judge Ramirez understood the positions of both sides very well. He took the time to carefully assess the arguments of both sides,” he said.

However, there is one key factor that the city believes is open to more precise interpretation.

“Specifically, the judge found that the city had included ‘proposed improvements’ in the creation of its health district, and the city believes that ‘improvements’ mean actual physical structures,” Running said. “The city has not offered any real physical improvement to the health district area.

“He had to decide whether the city had fully complied with the requirements of the incorporation law, and his interpretation of an article of this law differs from that of the city,” he added.

For village president Michael Doerr, the decision was in line with the point of view and intention of the village.

“It was good news for us,” Doerr said. “Obviously, I am very happy with the decision.”

Following:The town of Waukesha has officially become a village. Now the city is continuing the incorporation effort.

Following:The Village of Waukesha dropped its lawsuit which disputed part of the Town of Waukesha’s water demand

Moving forward

Partly because the city has not embarked on a legal path, the authorities are not digging deeper into the issues that may still separate the village and the city in the future. The village officials also remain evasive.

Among the issues that separate the two municipalities is one over which officials on both sides have historically clashed: border lands.

“My personal view is that the current boundaries between the two municipalities are meaningless and should be addressed for several reasons,” Lahner said. “I remain hopeful that this issue will be resolved at some point in the future.”

Burr Oak Boulevard, shown here at the intersection with Center Road, serves as a segment of the border between the village and town of Waukesha.  On one side of the street is a city sidewalk.  The other side, without a sidewalk, contains the Waukesha village hall.

For decades, the city’s islands – isolated patches completely surrounded by the city – along the southern city limits north and south of Sunset Drive have been a hotspot for decades.

From the city’s point of view, the lack of a definitive agreement is the reason. Unlike other municipalities involving towns and villages or towns, no timeline was ever established to decide when these lands would become part of the town.

But from the point of view of the village, it was the encroachment of the town to the south that was at issue, and this was actually a major reason why the town was seeking to incorporate as a village with borders. firm.

Doerr, who was elected in April to the post of city chief previously held by Brian Fischer as city president and then village president, shares the same point of view as his predecessor.

“I think we have taken the necessary steps to protect our borders and protect our identity from what was the city and is now the village,” Doerr said. “It has been many, many years of encroachment on the city, and becoming a village stops it so that we control our own destiny.”

Assuming that the village retains its victory on this front and that annexations between the two incorporated communities are no longer a problem, what other problems will the neighbors find themselves negotiating?

Among the possible sticking points: large border developments involving homes or commercial / industrial properties, water service issues within the outer city limits established by the historic Lake Michigan Water Agreement and various municipal services that could be shared.

For now, Doerr generally feels that nothing is certain about how the village will address the city on any point.

“I guess I don’t know,” he said. “For us in the village, it’s about maintaining that rural atmosphere. It’s about maintaining the environment that was in the city and is now the village, because I think that’s what people come for. at the village.”

That means lots of at least an acre with minimal roads, no gutters or sidewalks and lots of green space, “much more of a non-urban feel,” Doerr said.

And villagers expect taxes to stay low, as is the city’s tradition, he added.

Municipalities will also have to overcome recent disagreements between them, including issues that have spilled over into the courtroom.

Teams of contractor SJ Louis Construction are working on installing a pipeline on Les Paul Parkway just west of East Avenue on February 2.  The construction area was among those that the village of Waukesha said needs a permit beyond an existing intergovernmental agreement between the two.  municipalities.  But the lawsuit against the town of Waukesha was subsequently dropped.

In addition to the city’s challenge regarding the incorporation of the village, the two sides recently clashed in court over the village’s position threatening to delay the installation of pipelines as part of the city’s infrastructure for deliver lake water to residents by September 2023.

In that lawsuit, the village claimed the city had overstepped its permitting authority by installing pipelines not covered by an agreement reached years earlier. The lawsuit was withdrawn after the judge in the case, Lloyd V. Carter, expressed doubts about its validity based on public statements that the village had filed the challenge in response to the town’s lawsuit regarding the incorporation of the village.

City officials declined to comment on problematic points about how the city and village will work together in the future. It is not clear whether the aldermen will discuss these issues on August 3 when they consider a possible appeal of the decision of the village incorporation court.

Contact Jim Riccioli at (262) 446-6635 or james.riccioli@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jariccioli.


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