Many Town of Waukesha annexation requests after no deal with city for water service

Todd Ponath
Rick Hase, who owns Hase Landscape Company at W271 S2751 Merrill Hills Road in the Town of Waukesha.
Published on: 5/7/2013

The question on many in the City of Waukesha is will its application for Great Lakes water be approved by the eight governors representing those states so the city receives Lake Michigan water.

Meanwhile, the question on many in the Town of Waukesha has been whether or not they will rejoin the city's future water service area and receive water and sewer services as designated by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC).

Getting the town back in the city's future water service area has been the goal of new Town of Waukesha Chairman John Marek since being elected last month. He said businesses and residents would request annexation out of the town if the board didn't rescind an earlier decision made by the former board that excluded most of the town from the water service area.

Rick Hase, who owns Hase Landscape Company, W271 S2751 Merrill Hills Road, in the town, appears to be one of them.

"I have no choice but to join the exodus," Hase wrote to the Town Board at its May 2 special board meeting. "I can not and will not leave the fate of my largest asset in the hands of others."

On Monday, Hase said he was in the process of filing paperwork with the city.

"There were a couple of reasons," Hase said. "No. 1, now that the school district has annexed the land, I'm seemingly surrounded by the City of Waukesha. If that land is developed, it will have sewer and water services which is 100 feet from my front door and I wouldn't receive it. The other reason is the fact that the town was in the service area and to get out of it is completely ridiculous."

Hase has owned the 30-acre property for 15 years and invested more into it when he moved his home about five years ago from the city near Carroll University onto that land.

Mixed feelings

He's annexing with some hesitation but said it's his best option.

"I love living in the town," Hase said. "I don't want to leave the town. Annexation has become a decision by default. The board forced the hand of the school district and in doing so my hand as well. To protect my asset I have to take action before knowing the outcome of a stat of maybes. Bad decision, poor timing, lack of action. My town let me down."

Hase was referencing the Waukesha School District getting its 127-acre property west of Merrill Hills Road annexed from the town into the city. The district needs city water and sewer services for a large public school and access to those services was part of the development plan.

In addition, the City of Waukesha's Plan Commission considered the annexation of about 46 acres along Genesee Road and Highway 164 (South) and portions of Highway X and Highway 59 (South) right of ways from the town into the city.

"Right now our planning department is very busy," said City Administrator Ed Henschel, referencing a growing number of annexation requests.

Not accepting town's offer

Henschel, part of the city's water negotiating team, told the Town Board last week its new request to be in the water service area was a "non-starter" after seeing the conditions it proposed.

These included negotiating a development agreement governing all town land, negotiating a revenue-sharing agreement allowing the town a portion of the property tax payments for each parcel annexed to the city; the city to agree to abandon all wells located in the town, the city to not seek any additional wells located in the town, and the city agreeing not to charge town property owners for water service until they are connected to the municipal system.

"We could not accept those conditions," said Henschel, who explained the city set an April 30 deadline for the town. "And the problem is here we are in May and the town wants us to reconsider and they've been given ample amount of time to address this"

Council will have final say

The Town Board then met again May 2 and made another request for the city to reconsider, which it did when the Common Council met in closed session at its Tuesday night meeting.

The former Town Board and a majority of the new board has said that to protect town borders a majority of the town needs to be kept out of the service area.

"I do understand stopping future annexation but this is contrary to what the SEWRPC has said and I have sewer and water rights that are being taken away and that's not right," Hase said.

Henschel added the city only considers annexations if a request is made. "The only time we would consider annexation is if they would ask us. They are voluntarily approaching us."

Differing viewpoints

Hase said applications for those filing for annexation to be part of the water service area need to be in by the end of the week. Hase said he didn't get in touch with the old Town Board about his stance but said he thought the new Town Board would change the old board's decision.

His private well hasn't failed, but said he wants to have a backup plan at his disposal.

"I don't know if other business owners have the same perspective but it's also my house and not having those services would not be desirable," Hase said.

There are many who have urged the town to keep out of the city's service area. The city is under a federally-mandated deadline to have radium-compliant water by 2018.

"It was never an issue until the city had issues," Milette Krzyzanowski said at last week's meeting. "They created this emergency for the Town of Waukesha. This crisis and this great need that everyone is expressing, it's manufactured by the city. We don't need to have a backup water plan."

Insurance policy not used

Marek, as well as Bruce Baker, who has consulted with the town on the water service area and is a former state water administrator with the state Department of Natural Resources, say otherwise.

Baker has previously said "the service area should include the entire township."

Marek also has referenced wells at the Lathers Property in the Town of Waukesha saying that of the seven wells tested six have detectible levels of arsenic.

Henschel added that if there is a problem with contaminated water in the future in the town, residents will have to use bottled water, because the city's service-area plan would not be an option.

"What the Town of Waukesha is doing is declining a free insurance policy if an emergency occurs," Henschel said. "Our job as officials is to protect the health and safety of our residents. I have to protect 70,000 and they have to do what's best for theirs."