WMSN FOX 47
 

FOX47 NEWS - Town and Village Battle for Lake Home

Jeff Angileri
Aug 13, 2008, 10:39 PM


A village and a town in Sauk County are battling for a pricey piece of real estate. Now, the Wisconsin Supreme Court may weigh in.

A two million dollar home on Lake Wisconsin is the center of a big battle. When the owner built it in 2006, the Township of Merrimac said he failed to get multiple permits.

So the owner went to the village - which annexed the property. They get the tax money - he's no longer in violation.

This is known as cherry picking property - the house doesn't even border the village. That's the main reason town officials say they are suing. They say if they don't fight this annexation, it could have devastating consequences for rural areas.

When David Gerry built his 5,500 square foot home on Lake Wisconsin, town officials say he violated the zoning code.

A detached garage, upstairs living quarters, a swimming pool, and boathouse - all built without permits. When the town notified Gerry of the violations, he asked the village to annex his property, and they did.

Town of Merrimac administrator Tim McCumber says that means big bucks for the village.

The real incentive for communities to take these kinds of large properties and just cherry pick them, said McCumber. The financial incentive is really high.

He estimates the $2 million property will yield $50,000 to $100,000 in new tax revenue for the village.

McCumber says that should be illegal, because the house doesn't even share a border with the village.

It's really as simple as adding one little word - we'll it's a big word, contiguous, - back into that portion of the annexation law, he said.

Residents are worried this could lead to abuses across Wisconsin - villages and cities scooping up prime properties, and leaving a burden for townships.

Resident Hans Simonson said, It opens up too many doors to be able to hopscotch around the township and pick and choose who to annex.

Let alone higher taxes, people in the area say it destroys the aesthetic and cultural fabric of the area.

It's quiet, laid back, I'm afraid it would tear it apart, just ruin it, said Simonson. I'm just afraid the village is going to want to push for more.

The township unsuccessfully tried to sue the village twice, in Sauk County Circuit Court, and in the 4th District Court of Appeals.

Now, town officials have filed papers with the State Supreme Court, and they're waiting, and hoping their case will be heard.

The Village of Merrimac administrator declined to comment on the situation, and the village lawyer did not return our calls.

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