Whitehall check moves annexation end nearer

The lengthy dispute about an invalidated annexation of about 1,250 acres from the town of Lincoln by the city of Whitehall for a proposed sand mine is still inching its way to resolution.

The city has issued a check to the township for just under $84,000 for the town’s legal expenses for the nearly five-year-long and successful fight to reverse the annexation, but “conflicting” state statutes are keeping a disagreement over taxes from allowing the case to be finalized, said town chairman Jack Speerstra.

“We’ve provided (the city) with what we think is the proper outcome, but we haven’t heard back yet,” Speerstra said. “I suppose all of our attorneys are busy.”

Though not entirely resolved, the annexed property did revert back to the township Jan. 1, reversing a 2015 action taken at the request of property owners working with the now-defunct Whitehall Sand and Rail. Amy Schaub, a resident of the annexed land who was elected to the Whitehall City Council, filed a notice of non-candidacy and resigned Jan. 15. Whitehall resident Julie House will seek the seat representing the newly configured Ward 1.

Upon reflecting on the five years of court battles that went from Trempealeau County Circuit Court, to the state appeals court and finally to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Speerstra said he and the town board did “soul-searching” each step of the way but remained convinced the annexation was problematic.

“Usually with an annexation, property owners are doing it to get more services or something,” Speerstra said. “But in this instance it was done for a few and the only service was they were going to have easier regulations on mining through the city than the county.”

The supreme court ruled the annexation was invalid because one property owner, Fox Valley and Western Railroad, did not sign the original petition. Though that aspect of the case was not the township’s argument, “a win is a win,” Speerstra said.

 

 

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