A new law that is designed to encourage greater cooperation between cities and villages and towns regarding municipal boundaries will soon take effect. Signed by Governor Doyle on January 4, 2008, Act 43 provides a specific procedure by which a municipality can engage a neighboring municipality in mediation leading towards a cooperative plan. The Act also removes a number of technical requirements formerly applicable to cooperative plans, in favor of a more general requirement that such plans be consistent with each municipality’s comprehensive plan. Finally, the Act clears up a point of confusion by specifically providing that, for limited purposes, municipalities may use section 66.0301 intergovernmental cooperation agreements to determine common boundaries.
The Act creates new mediation provisions that may be effective in spurring greater cooperation between cities and villages and towns, as a municipality that rejects an invitation to engage in mediation faces certain consequences. Towns that reject a city or village’s invitation to mediate lose the opportunity to contest any annexation commenced by that city or village within 270 days of the town’s rejection. A city or village that rejects a town’s invitation to mediate subjects all annexations commenced by the city or village during the next 270 days to Department of Administration review. The town, likewise, is authorized to contest any such annexation that the Department determines is not in the public interest – even if that annexation was accomplished by direct petition.
A municipality that has a comprehensive plan in place may invoke the new mediation provisions by adopting a resolution authorizing mediation to develop a cooperative plan and requesting in writing that the adjacent municipality also adopt such a resolution. The adjacent municipality then has 60 days to ‘accept’ the invitation by adopting an authorizing resolution. If both municipalities agree to engage in mediation to develop a cooperative plan, they select a mediator, with assistance from the Department of Administration, if needed, and work with the mediator to develop and reach agreement on a cooperative plan. The mediation period lasts for 270 days, unless the two municipalities agree to an extension. If mediation is refused, the ‘inviting’ municipality must wait three years before invoking these procedures with the same neighboring city, village or town.
In addition to creating this new mediation procedure, the Act also makes certain changes to the cooperative plan statute, Wis. Stat. § 66.0307. The Act deletes certain technical requirements that cooperative plans must meet in favor of a general requirement that the cooperative plan must comply with the each municipality’s comprehensive plan. The Act also reduces, from 120 to 60 days, the time that must pass before the municipalities hold a joint public hearing on a proposed cooperative plan.
Finally, the Act provides specific statutory authority for municipalities to include agreements relating to municipal boundaries within the context of a section 66.0301 intergovernmental cooperative agreement. Expressing the Legislature’s intention that municipalities utilize the cooperative plan procedure for long-term boundary agreements, however, the Act specifically provides that the maximum term of an intergovernmental cooperative agreement relating to municipal boundaries is 10 years.