Mining – Trempealeau Annexation Referendum

How to put Independence/Whitehall annexation on the ballot

Another Company Skirts Trempealeau County Frac Sand Mining Ban
Wisconsin Public Radio By Rich Kremer – Tuesday Nov. 5

Hi-Crush Proppants, a frac sand company in western Wisconsin, has used annexation to avoid a temporary ban on industrial sand mining.

In September, Trempealeau County passed a one-year moratorium on new or expanded frac sand mines. County supervisors wanted to use time to study potential health impacts of frac sand.

Texas-based Hi-Crush Proppants has found a way to build a 700-acre sand facility despite the ban. They successfully petitioned nearby cities of Independence and Whitehall to annex their property, meaning county rules no longer apply.

Wisconsin law allows for the people to decide

Unlike many states, Wisconsin does not have a statewide initiative process,
but residents of cities and villages in Wisconsin arewealth empowered to initiate legislation by petition. In addition, statewide and local referenda are required in numerous circumstances, and the state legislature or local governing bodies may, at their discretion, submit questions to the voters in the form of binding or advisory referenda.

The original maps for the square mile annexation plan were first produced in September or less than two months ago. The motivation of Hi Crush was to circumvent the moratorium passed by the Trempealeau County Board. What was the rush? The amount of time allowed for the public to review and digest such a transformation plan for the two cities was far less than fair or adequate. Now it is done. The annexation has been passed by the city councils of both Independence and Whitehall.

What else can be done?

I am not lawyer, but after some study of ballot referendum options, it appears that options for the people to decide are possible.

Initiating City and Village Charter Ordinances, Ordinances and Resolutions

Under Section 9.20, Wisconsin Statutes, electors in Wisconsin cities and villages may petition the city common council or village board of trustees to pass without change proposed ordinance or resolution the voters have propose . In addition, s. 66.01 (6)permits electors to initiate the enactment, amendment or repeal of city or village charter ordinances, using the indirect initiative procedures provided in s. 9.20. If the council or board fails to enact a petition-initiated proposal without change within 30 days, the question automatically appears on a referendum ballot for the people to decide.

Petition Requirements.

The initiative process begins with the submission of petitions containing a specified number of valid signatures from qualified electors (legal residents of voting age). At minimum, the number of signatures must equal at least 15% of the votes cast for governor in the municipality at the last gubernatorial election, and all the signatures must be collected within 60 days prior to filing the petitions with the city or village clerk

List of petition requirements can be found at Let the People Decide – Page 7

Charter Ordinance

I called the offices the County Clerk of Tempealeau County and he could not tell me any specifics about ballot referendum for municipal governments and advised contacting the County Corporate Attorney, Ryan Radke. I asked Ryan what the difference was between an ordinance and a “charter” ordinance and he said he could not answer that question since he would be giving me “legal advice”. So, I do not have an answer, but it appears that if the annexation ordinances fall under “charter ordinances” – the annexation can be repealed through a ballot referendum.

Ordinances & Resolutions FAQ 4
What is a charter ordinance?

A charter ordinance creates or revises any part of the charter of a city or village and is used when a municipality elects not to be governed by state laws relating to its local affairs and government. Secs. 66.0101(1m) and 66.0101(5). In Wisconsin the general city charter law applicable to all cities except Milwaukee, which has a special charter, is chapter 62 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

Further research required – the village charter law is chapter 61 of the Wisconsin State Statutes, and there is a lot there about annexation especially regarding school districts.

Please comment, and watch this space.


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