Officials in the village of Holmen and city of Onalaska are considering a contract that would predetermine future boundary lines between the municipalities.
Holmen Village Administrator Scott Heinig and Onalaska Land Use and Development Director Brea Grace presented a cooperative boundary plan agreement that would divide the town of Onalaska, setting which areas each municipality could annex in years to come.
Partnering on the plan would avoid legal battles and achieve zoning and development compatibility, according to Heinig and Grace. The idea for the partnership came after the two municipalities’ borders grew together last year at Hwy. OT.
“Because of this, we know there is a likelihood of us probably having annexations and other actions take place in these other areas in a relatively short time frame or the near future,” Heinig said.
Heinig and Grace hope to avoid the two municipalities competing over the same land.
“Historically, a competitive approach between municipalities has not been successful and not been the most cost-effective,” Grace said.
The agreement would formalize previous understandings between the two municipalities to avoid legal trouble.
“We had in the past a verbal understanding that OT would be the dividing line,” said Heinig.
The plan would continue to divide the Onalaska and Holmen at Hwy. OT, extending an annexation growth line along the bluffs to the east and Highways OT and ZN to the west.
“Essentially, these are the only areas where our municipalities can grow,” Grace said.
It would also establish communication policies and ensure consistent and equitable treatment of all issues between the two municipalities.
“We feel this is a very fair and reasonable agreement and it’s exciting to get to this point of consensus,” Grace said.
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The proposed agreement would last 10 years and include an automatic renewal. Both Onalaska and Holmen would have the ability to opt out in 10 years, and the two municipalities could alter the agreement if both agreed.
“We’re trying to build the best community we can build for Onalaska, for Holmen, for all our surrounding regions,” Grace said.
Town of Onalaska Chairman Rolly Bogart said the agreement would not affect the town’s efforts to incorporate into its own village, called Midway.
“It won’t change anything,” said Bogart, who supports the incorporation project.
Bogart added that it was up to the village and city residents to decide what they want.
Jaime Paugh, who lives on Walden Court in the town of Onalaska, spoke against the agreement, saying she didn’t want to live in the village of Holmen.
“What I see is property I own being annexed into Holmen,” Paugh said. “It looks like you are fighting over land neither one of you own.”
Paugh is opposed to becoming a village resident, saying it would raise her taxes.
“I bought in the town of Onalaska so our property taxes would be lower,” Paugh said.
The agreement will go before both municipalities’ planning commissions next month. The commissions will send the agreement to the Holmen Village Board and Onalaska Common Council, which will vote on them. If passed by both groups, it will need approval by the Wisconsin Department of Administration to go into effect. If approved, the plan would not result in any immediate annexation.
“The proposed cooperative plan does not change our municipal boundaries. It does not annex any land,” Grace said.
Community members may submit written comments to Grace or Heinig within 20 days.