Palmyra residents sound off about annexation

(The following letters appeared in the Jan. 17 issue of The Enterprise followed by more recent letters)

Legal fight over annexation hurts entire community

I believe Bob and Kathy Oleson misrepresent the facts of the judge’s decision concerning the recent annexation in the block ad they placed in the Jan. 10 issue of The Enterprise.

They emphasize in the ad that the “February 2013 annexation of Palmyra Township lands has been overturned by Jefferson County Judge Weston.”

The fact is that it was the annexation petition that was invalidated because Standard Process neglected to inform property owners of their intention to file the petition. This is a requirement of the petition process. This decision in no way prevents them from re-filing.

The fact is that the merits of the actual annexation were never heard in court and the judge’s decision was based on a procedural error by the party who filed the annexation petition – Standard Process – an error that is easily corrected.

The fact is that given the procedural error in the petition filing, the town and the village could be in for duplicate expenses assuming the town will again sue when Standard Process files a new annexation petition.

The fact is that the core question of the legality of the annexation was never answered.

It is interesting that Bob and Kathy Oleson did not detail the expense to the town for filing the lawsuit – they only detailed the cost to the village, $19,000. At the December Town Board meeting, I asked the board for the total legal fees to date for the annexation lawsuit. Town Chairman Larry Kau, and Clerk Wendy Dunbar both answered, that as of that date, the cost to the town was approximately $24,000. I believe that Kathy Oleson was present at that meeting so I’m not sure why she didn’t include that fact in her block ad.

The bottom line is this: the previous Town Board filed and pursued this lawsuit, and the current Town Board continued to pursue this lawsuit against the village, therefore, the village had to defend against it. To the best of my knowledge the village spent $19,000 and the town spent $24,000 in the process. The decision to invalidate the annexation petition was based on a procedural defect in filing, not on the merits of the annexation petition.

So, the actions of the Town Board cost taxpayers in our joint village and town community approximately $43,000 to accomplish nothing but a delay.

Standard Process has a legal right by statute to re-file their petition for annexation, according to Wisconsin State law. Any company that wants to be successful and grow their business needs to be located in a municipality that welcomes that. When a company is located in a hostile environment, they can choose to move to a new location, or try to annex into a different boundary.

If the Town Board had the future financial security of the town as a priority, they would try to see if there was any way that they could encourage Standard Process to remain in the town boundary. The future growth of this company could represent the future growth of the town’s tax base. At this point, there is no other existing business in the town that can replace the lost tax revenue that Standard Process represents. Suing the village is like an afterthought.

The village isn’t requesting the annexation, it is being requested by Standard Process. Considering the tremendous growth potential, why wouldn’t the village want the additional tax base for their residents? The only way to avoid that is to make staying in the town boundary a better option.

Chuck Soden,

Town of Palmyra


Annexation issue should spur cooperation between village, town

As many know, the annexation of more than 700 acres of town land by the village, including the Town Hall and airport, was vacated, based on improper procedure in notifying affected parties. Judge Weston signed the order on Dec. 16 and village residents should be glad.

On the surface, it would appear appealing to gain more tax base for the village, even if it is at the expense of the town. Most village annexations are necessary to accommodate growth, build a school or a road… none of these conditions applied in this recent land grab, and indeed, the impetus behind the annexation was a private entity, Standard Process.

With the federal government deadlocked due to partisan wrangling, village residents should appreciate the possibility to get along with the town: that’s the beauty of local government. There are numerous institutions and causes that depend on the support of both local government entities: the fire department, the parks, the library and the schools. Surely it is in the interest of both village and town that these institutions are adequately funded and supported.

I urge village residents to think about whom they are supporting in the upcoming April elections and to demand that their board desist from needless and overreaching annexation of town land in the future, especially when motivated by private interest and not the public good.

Elvira Kau,

Town of Palmyra

(The following two letters appeared in the Jan. 24 issue of The Enterprise)

Village Board acted in the best public interest

I am a Village of Palmyra resident. I’m not an expert on the subject of annexation, but I have taken time to do some reading on the subject. I wanted to know the truth about annexation in Wisconsin, so I would know the difference between truth and rumor.

Rumor is that the village started the most recent annexation, and is trying to do a “land grab.”

Truth is that Standard Process submitted an annexation petition to the village for consideration. The village never asked for them to do that.

Rumor is that the annexation is illegal.

Truth is that the annexation petition was not filed properly. The details of the annexation itself were never tested in court.

Rumor is that village leadership has failed.

Truth is that village leadership has been successful on many levels, one of which is to be financially responsible to the taxpayer. The village, unlike the town, didn’t accumulate $450,000 of unallocated surplus, continue to raise the tax levy, let the roads deteriorate, and then still over spend the budget by $100,000 in 2013.

Rumor is that the village is only considering special interests and not the public interest concerning the annexation.

Truth is that bringing additional tax base into the village from a successful, growing company is in the public interest. More tax base can equal lower property taxes. More jobs can equal financial vitality.

A good corporate citizen can equal long-term success for both the village and Standard Process. Successful companies attract other successful companies. The village understands that, but I don’t believe the town does. I hope Standard Process files for annexation again.

Has anyone in the town stopped to think why Standard Process has had to resort to annexation into the village?

Has any Town Board member even asked Standard Process what they could do to keep them in the town?

I don’t see where the town has many options to increase their tax base. Why would you chase away the golden goose? The town’s loss is the village’s gain.

Julie Powell,

Village of Palmyra


Detachment would cost less than lawsuits

I am responding to the letter by Elvira Kau concerning the recently vacated annexation in Palmyra that appeared in the Jan. 17 issue of The Enterprise. She makes some statements that are not accurate.

Mrs. Kau states that the Village of Palmyra annexed Town of Palmyra land. Not so. The village accepted an annexation petition from Standard Process – the village did not initiate it.

She also implies that annexations are mostly done to accommodate schools or roads. Not so. Annexation is the process that transfers unincorporated territory from towns to cities and villages. It is a landowner-driven process.  Landowners often seek annexation to obtain sewer and water or other municipal services not available in the town, but there may be other reasons as well.

Direct annexation petition by property owners is common and accepted by the State of Wisconsin. The last three annexation petitions submitted in Palmyra were each initiated by the individual property owners.

In her letter, Mrs. Kau used the term “land grab.” I personally think that’s a misrepresentation of the annexation process, and constitutes fear mongering. She implies that the village is the instigator of this annexation. Not true.

She implies that the village is responsible for the size of the geographic area involved. Not true either. When a municipality receives an annexation petition for consideration, the municipality does not have the authority to change it. It must be considered as is. So I think it’s time to stop the scare tactics and begin to deal with the facts.

As a taxpayer in the Town of Palmyra, I’m looking for workable solutions, not saber rattling. Wisconsin Law supports annexation, so we need to look at options to bring balance to the situation.

Because of the current contentious environment, it seems likely that Standard Process will file another annexation petition. Because of the benefits that could represent for Village taxpayers, it seems likely that it will be accepted on their behalf. It also seems likely, based on past behavior, that the Town Board will once again bring a lawsuit. More fighting, more expenditure of tax dollars with uncertain outcome.

I’d really like to know why there has been no discussion of detachment of town land from annexation. This is authorized by Wisconsin State Statutes. There are two methods for accomplishing detachment: detachment of Territory, s. 66.0227 Wis. Stats. which involves a landowner, and some combination of city, village and/or town; and detachment of Farm Lands from Cities, s. 66.075 Wis. Stats. which involves landowners of at least 200 acres of agricultural land, a city or village, a town, and the county circuit court. This would be a great deal less expensive, which I suppose would be a great deal less attractive to the attorneys involved.

Because both the detaching and attaching municipalities must approve the territory transfer, cooperation between the Town and Village is a necessity. I don’t really see how the current bashing between the town and the village will help accomplish that.

Chuck Soden,

Town of Palmyra

One Comment

  1. On the surface, it would appear appealing to gain more tax base for the village, even if it is at the expense of the town.
    Why would the Town of Palmyra give away some of their tax base? So the village can give S.P. more corporate welfare? So Palmyra residents can pay for more local government (dead beat) employees and their large pay packages with months of paid time off every year. This issue has fractured the local community. Who started it? S.P. Charlie lives in a 12,000 square foot house and sends his kids to St. Bernard in Waukesha. He doesn’t need the money.