State closer to town's incorporation answer

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MADISON - Town, city and county officials once again went to battle over the fate of the Town of Beloit's petition to the Wisconsin Incorporation Review Board on Tuesday in Madison.

Officials from parties of interest, including the Town of Beloit, City of Beloit and Rock County, were present at the meeting in the Wisconsin Department of Administration. The city and county have actively been opposing the town's incorporation bid since the township submitted its application to the state earlier this year.

The discussion topics included six aspects of Wisconsin state statues: compactness and homogeneity; territory beyond the core; tax revenue; services; impact on the town remainder; and impact on the metropolitan community.

Rock County administrator Josh Smith said the review board seemed especially curious about making sure the boundaries were compact and homogeneous, as well as transportation needs, the remnant town's debt levels and the impact of Alliant Energy's plant.

"The staff from the Department of Administration and the board members raised some good questions, asking for clarification," Smith said.

Town of Beloit interim administrator Gene Wright said the meeting went as expected, with the board asking questions about on certain parts of the application. This included land use and the budgets for the proposed new village and town.

"We've presented our case well, and it's up to the board now to decide what our fate is," Wright said.

Smith said interested parties only have 10 days to submit materials. No decision was made at Tuesday's meeting.

Wright said the town will provide the needed documents by the deadline.

After that deadline no more materials or testimony may be submitted. The review board is set to meet again on Dec. 13.

Smith said those interested may come and observe. However, no public input will be accepted at the December meeting. The review board is expected to release its findings later in December.

Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther reaffirmed the city's position on the town's incorporation bid.

"The city continues to advocate for action that is in the best interest of the Greater Beloit area, which is a required standard for any petition for consideration," Luther said. "The city's position remains that the Town's incorporation petition does not meet the requirements outlined in state law."

Opponents claim the township's primary motivation for incorporating is seeking additional revenue from the in-progress Alliant Energy West Riverside project. Currently the township receives a third of the shared revenues and the county two-thirds, but if the incorporation effort was successful, the ratio would be reversed.

The county currently receives about $1.7 million annually, while the town receives slightly less than $1 million. When the new energy center is operational, and if incorporation is approved, the new village, which would be the Village of Riverside, would receive approximately $3 million, while the county would receive $1.8 million. Town officials have pledged not to make the ratio swap until the new plant is operational.

The township contends the primary reasons for the town's incorporation efforts are to protect the municipality from annexation and to give the proposed village greater access to economic tools, such as the ability to create tax increment financing districts.

If the township were to incorporate, land to the east of Afton Road would become the village and land to the west would remain a remnant township. The town could consolidate with the new village either via boundary agreements with all its neighbors, including the City of Beloit, or through annexation.

If the review board rules in favor of the town, the residents on the east side would have to approve of incorporation in a referendum.

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