September/October 2021 Issue
Also in this issue: COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates | Municipality Wins Again in Dark Store Tax Case
Municipality Has a Right to Be a Party to Its Neighbors’ Cooperative Boundary Plan
Lawrie J. Kobza | 10.04.21
In City of Mayville v. Dept. of Admin., 2021 WI 57, the Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously held that the City of Mayville had the right to be a party to a cooperative boundary plan between the Village of Kekoskee and the Town of Williamstown. The opinion issued by the Supreme Court raises a question about the future use of Wis. Stat. § 66.0307 cooperative boundary plans.
The Village and Town entered into a cooperative boundary plan pursuant to which the Town would be absorbed into the Village and be renamed the Village of Williamstown. The new Village completely surrounded the City. The City objected to the plan. After several iterations, the plan was approved by the Wisconsin Department of Administration. The final version of the approved plan included a “detachment area” that could be detached from the new Village and attached to the City in the future if certain conditions were met.
The City challenged the DOA’s approval of the plan. The circuit court reversed DOA’s approval of the plan because it determined that the cooperative plan statute did not permit municipalities to use cooperative plans to absorb an entire town into a village. The court of appeals affirmed the reversal but on different grounds. 2020 WI App 63. The court of appeals concluded that the plan included an optional boundary line change and that Wis. Stat. § 66.0307 did not permit such a boundary line change unless the municipality affected by the change was a party to the plan. Since the City was not a party to the plan, the court of appeals held that the DOA could not approve the plan. The court of appeals did not address the issue whether the cooperative plan statute permits municipalities to use cooperative plans to absorb an entire town into a village.
The Supreme Court reached the same result but its opinion included language suggesting that the City’s right to be a party to a cooperative plan between its neighbors could be more far-reaching than what was recognized by the court of appeals. Section 66.0307(2) provides that “[n]o boundary of a municipality may be changed or maintained under this section unless the municipality is a party to the cooperative agreement.” According to the opinion, the term “change” as used in this context means “a physical alteration of, or difference in” a boundary line. The Supreme Court (as had the court of appeals) found that the City was entitled to be a party to the plan because the plan included an optional physical alteration of the City’s boundary line.
The Supreme Court opinion, however, also mentions that the plan resulted in other differences affecting the City’s boundaries. Because of the plan, the City would no longer possess the right to annex and its ability to grow would be limited. The Supreme Court stated that the plan “not only contemplates a change to Mayville’s boundary lines, it also has the effect of precluding Mayville’s expansion if the Plan’s conditions for changing its boundary line are not met. Mayville should have been a party to, and had a voice in, proposed alterations to its municipal authority.”
Time will tell; however, the Supreme Court’s opinion may suggest an opening for a municipality to demand the right to participate in its neighboring municipalities’ cooperative plan.
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