Town of Beloit incorporation petition heads to Rock County court
By Jim Hagerty
BELOIT — The contentious petition by the Town of Beloit to incorporate will soon be in front of a Wisconsin judge.
The matter is scheduled for a March 5 hearing with Rock County Circuit Judge Barbara McCory, who will decide whether the petition is in accordance with state law.
Officials filed the petition Jan. 9. If McCory approves it, it will move in front of the Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Incorporation Review Board. If approved there, a referendum to make the Town of Beloit the “Village of Riverside” would be placed on the spring 2019 ballot.
Proponents say the new municipality would be protected from possible annexations to Beloit or Janesville, something Town of Beloit Administrator Ian Haas commented is vital as he says the township has not been treated fairly by its larger neighbors during the application process.
“The Town of Beloit will no longer be bullied and no amount of misinformation or politically-charged rhetoric from the City of Beloit will change that fact,” Haas said in a statement. “We are our own community with our own identity and fully, high-functioning services.”
Those against the move say regardless of the judge’s ruling, creating a new village would benefit only a small percentage of residents and leave the majority at a disadvantage. Further, Beloit officials say the town chose not to act in good faith when it filed the petition, which included a map of its chosen borders.
“The petition has yet to address the impact on the town’s own residents on the west side–who will be left out of the proposed village–or the impact on the City of Beloit as their neighbor,” City Manager Lori Luther said. “Our priority is to protect the best interests of the greater Beloit area.”
The City of Beloit has since invited the township to participate in mediation with a third party to discuss shared services like police and fire. The township agreed to those talks but not at the expense of the petition.
The Rock County Board has issued a resolution summary opposing the township. The board echoed Luther and noted that if a new municipality is formed, the county’s share of revenue from the Alliant Energy power plant would be cut by $1.1 million. Right now, two-thirds of the Alliant cash goes to the county and one-third to the township. If the township incorporates, two-thirds would go to the new village.
Rock County Board Chairman Russ Podzilni told reporters last week that the board’s resistance is a matter of that money. He said the county would not stand in the way if the current revenue-sharing plan is kept in place.
According to the petition, the Village of Riverside’s dividing line would be Afton Road. Land on the east side would be part of the village while the west side would become a remnant township that could be annexed to the new village or the City of Beloit. A petition requiring 50 signatures for incorporation drew nearly 200.
The Town of Beloit’s population is approximately 7,000. The township includes the unincorporated communities of Belcrest and Victory Heights. R.