TOWN OF VERNON — The Department of Administration will continue with its review of the proposed Mukwonago and Vernon border agreement despite the Town Board’s approval to rescind the agreement at a meeting Thursday night.
Both municipalities approved and submitted a plan for a cooperative border agreement to the DOA earlier this year. The border agreement consists of 2,200 acres of rural land on Vernon’s western border, which would be divided into three sections and transferred from the town government into the village’s jurisdiction over a 30-year period.
The land being transferred consists of 66 property owners, including half a dozen commercial establishments and about 20 single- family homes. The remainder of the 3.5 square miles in the southwest corner of the town comprises farms and wetlands.
The DOA is slated to hold a public hearing for the border agreement on Monday, Sept. 16 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Big Bend Elementary School, W230-S8965 Big Bend Drive. Town Chairman Carl Fortner chose to bring a resolution to rescind the border agreement to a vote after an April election and recent recall election changed the composition of the Town Board.
Fortner reached out to DOA legal counsel on Wednesday to ask how Vernon could withdraw from the border agreement in light of the “new Town Board.” “Vernon residents are overwhelmingly against the cooperative plan and I suspect the new Town Board is too,” Fortner wrote in an email to David Rabe, DOA legal counsel.
However, Rabe advised Fortner that even if the Town Board is no longer interested in a cooperative border agreement with Mukwonago, the DOA still must review the plan since both municipalities submitted a joint approval of the border agreement earlier this year. “This still does not change the fact the Department had already received the joint submission of the plan from the Town and the Village,” said Rabe in an email to Fortner.
Rabe referenced language in Wisconsin State Statutes that says, “the department shall make a written determination within 90 days after receiving the plan unless the department and the parties agree to a longer determination period.” Rabe also said state law allowed for Vernon to withdraw from the proposed plan at multiple points in time before the final border agreement plan was submitted to the DOA.
But since the DOA has received the final border agreement plan “it must proceed to issue a determination within 90 days unless both the Town and the Village agree otherwise,” Rabe said. Vernon could seek an extension to the 90-day determination period which would allow more time for the municipalities to negotiate.
However, Mukwonago would have to agree to an extension, Rabe explained. Despite Rabe’s legal opinion, Fortner believes an opportunity may still exist to quash the border agreement, even after the public hearing. With a reasonable review of the statutes, Vernon could also rescind its earlier approval, he added.
“At this point, it’s the DOA’s hearing so it has to proceed,” Fortner said. “We will attend the hearing and we’ll see where it goes from there.” Meanwhile, Mukwonago Village President Fred Winchowky believes the border agreement is the best option for both communities. “Both boards sitting at the time came up with an agreement in good faith and it was submitted to the Department of Administration,” Winchowky said. “I feel it’s a good agreement for both communities going into the future.”