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Mediation Fails, Town of Brookfield Incorporation Moves to State Review

The Town of Brookfield's request to incorporate as a village will proceed for state review and action because mediation has failed between the town and its neighboring cities.

(Updated with reaction from city, town officials)

Mediation has failed between the Town of Brookfield and adjacent municipalities, sending the Town's request to incorporate as a village back to a state agency for review and decision.

Waukesha County Circuit Judge James Kieffer on Thursday lifted a six-month stay on the state's review of the town's incorporation. Another circuit judge had imposed the delay last spring after leaders of the Town, Cities of Brookfield and Waukesha and Village of Sussex sought time to try to mediate common issues surrounding border agreements, consolidation and annexations.

The four communities agreed to meet with retired Waukesha County Circuit Judge Patrick Snyder to determine if there are solutions short of the incorporation.

But that mediation was unsuccessful and the town's petition will now proceed to the state Department of Administration, Kieffer ruled.

"We're disappointed but we'll continue on with the process," Town Administrator Rick Czopp said. "We tried to negotiate in good faith but obviously it didn't work."

City Attorney Karen Flaherty said "both parties" entered mediation "with the best of intents."

But she said, "From the city’s perspective I think that our case is very good so we’ll move forward. If you’re playing the odds, the likelihood is that we will win the incorporation hearing that will take place."

The state Department of Administration was poised to hold a public hearing before mediation canceled the session.

The town paid $25,000 to file its request in March with the state Department of Administration, along with a 62-page petition that outlines the rationale for incorporating.

The main reasons for seeking to become a village include protecting the town from annexation by neighboring cities, and preserving its future autonomous government and tax base. The Corners redevelopment proposal, to be anchored by a Von Maur department store, is another example of why the town wants to tax base protection to finance public improvements.

In order to incorporate, the town needs additional land because it no longer has the minimum required 4 square miles of territory to become a village or city.

The petition proposes including about 288 acres of continguous land in the Town of Waukesha, south of Greenfield Avenue, west of Springdale Road and east of Highway 164. The lands represent about $35 million in tax base, and includes the former Walmart store and Don Jacobs car dealership, Town of Brookfield attorney James Hammes has said.

It was unknown Monday whether the Town of Waukesha would seek to renew a stay on the state's incorporation review until an appellate court resolves the Town of Waukesha's legal attempts to block it.

The Town is challenging whether the Town of Brookfield can involuntarily include Town of Waukesha lands in its bid. The Town of Waukesha also is seeking to overturn a circuit judge's ruling excluding the Town of Waukesha from intervening in the case.

More Patch coverage on the Town's incorporation bid

Mary Chapman September 25, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Why can't the Town of Brookfield be part of the Elmbrook school district? Waukesha schools have horrible ratings and Elmbrook is practically across the street. So frustrating.
Randy1949 September 25, 2012 at 03:26 PM
According to my parents, the decision was made by the PTA at the previously unaffiliated Pleasant Hill School as to which district to join. At the time, Waukesha Schools were the superior district. I really wish they'd had a crystal ball to foresee the tax ramifications. I don't see Waukesha letting the Town of Brookfield tax base get away without a fight. Is Wisconsin Hills school still open? It was kind of frustrating sending my son to Banting when that school was so close.
Scott Berg September 25, 2012 at 03:35 PM
School district borders and municipal borders are independent. In isolated small cities it's a moot point since the school district includes the whole city and surrounding area. In metro areas with many adjoining cities and townships, the boundaries are driven by a long history of independent annexations of town lands into different adjoining cities. The town has a small area on north Barker Road that is in the Elmbrook district. The city has a small area (The Shire neighborhood) along Brookfield Road split in half by the Elmbrook/Waukesha school boundary. The Weston Hills neighborhood in the southwest corner of the city used to be in the Waukesha school district but was eventually transferred to Elmbrook. Incorporation of the town will have no effect on school boundaries. Waukesha school district is low on tax base and will never give up the valuable Brookfield houses. The school district will be denied the increased taxable value of the Von Maur and other buildings as long as the TIF is in place. This is yet another example of too many local government units too close together resulting in a hodge podge of boundaries, policies and levels of service. And incorporation of the Town of Brookfield into the Village of Goerke's Corners will be one more.
Scott Berg September 25, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Wisconsin Hills Middle School on Wisconsin Avenue east of Barker Road is open. My kids loved it there! There was a part of Menomonee Falls (near Calhoun and Lisbon) in the Elmbrook district that was given back to the Falls district a few years ago. There is a small part of New Berlin (I believe near Sunnyslope and Greenfield) in Elmbrook. That area was part of the old Linfield Elementary School service area. That school is long since closed but the boundary remains. Those transfers were made when school districts had some flexibility in their budgets. With the pressure to drive taxes down, such transfers have become very rare. Districts just can't give up the tax base.
Randy1949 September 25, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Oh-ho! So Weston Hills finally managed to change districts. I truly sympathized with them. As for the rest, Mr. Berg, you sound like the Borg. "You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile." All in the name of efficiency. Incorporation will save the Town residents from the City's policies, levels of service, and higher tax rate -- none of which I want.
Scott Berg September 25, 2012 at 03:59 PM
So, Randy, you PREFER IN-efficiency and lower levels of service? Enjoy your lower tax rate now! A failed TIF will make it skyrocket.
Randy1949 September 25, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Life in the Town has worked pretty well for me for sixty years, your perceived inefficiency or not. I agree that a failed TIF would not be a good thing, but other interests seem to be so desperate to prevent it happening that it makes me wonder if they'd be willing to make the same concessions if the development were to be in their area.

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