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Madison mulls lawsuit against McFarland, property owners over annexation dispute

November 27, 2018

Some parcels of land, an intergovernmental plan and an annexation attempt have the city of Madison considering a lawsuit against the village of McFarland.

A resolution was introduced to the Madison City Council last week that would authorize the city to sue McFarland, along with three property owners and two tenants, to challenge the validity of the village’s annexation of town of Blooming Grove properties at Interstate 39-90 and Siggelkow Road.

On Nov. 12, the Village Board unanimously backed a petition for annexation from the property owners of 3341 and 3372 Storck Road, which are currently part of Blooming Grove. At issue is a 2006 cooperative plan between Madison and Blooming Grove that outlines boundaries and the timeline for the eventual dissolution of the town, which is scheduled for 2027.

The city argues the state-approved cooperative plan does not allow for the village to annex land north of Siggelkow Road — the properties at issue lie just north of the road.

“It’s important for the city and the town that this land proceeds according to the cooperative plan,” said assistant city attorney Doran Viste. “We feel that state law supports our arguments here that (McFarland is) precluded from using annexation.”

The resolution is supported by Mayor Paul Soglin, council president Samba Baldeh and Ald. Michael Tierney, 16th District.

But the village maintains that because it is not a party to the cooperative plan, it cannot be barred from making the properties part of McFarland, said village administrator Matt Schuenke.

“They created a contract between themselves that’s only binding upon themselves,” he said. “They could have very well included us in their agreement with the town to prevent this kind of thing from happening.”

Both Viste and Schuenke agree, though, that the annexation would not have been possible under a separate agreement between Madison and McFarland that barred the city from annexing land south of Siggelkow Road and the village from taking property north of it. But that agreement expired April 1.

At play is more than the 148 acres, which is directly east of the Secret Places neighborhood on Madison’s Southeast Side.

A memo dated Nov. 5 from the Mayor’s Office to village officials said the annexation could “set a bad precedent for other town property owners who, for whatever reason, may be dissatisfied with the Cooperative Plan.”

Viste said the annexation could also have implications for the cooperative plans Madison has with the towns of Burke, Madison and Middleton.

“As far as we’re concerned, any intrusion of that cooperative plan is a threat to not only this cooperative plan, but the others we have as well,” he said.

Schuenke said he understands why the city would want to sue the village, but he finds it “odd and unfortunate” that the property owners and tenants could also face legal action. He said the property owners approached the village about annexation because they have “a strong preference about where their property would be located in the future.”

“This case will boil down to whether or not the citizens can pick their government or whether government picks for them,” Schuenke said.

The resolution authorizing a lawsuit will go before the city’s Plan Commission and Finance Committee before it is expected at the City Council for a final vote on Dec. 4.

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