Ask Now: How does annexation actually work?

July 15, 2014

Is there a rumor you'd like tracked down? Geoff Bruce answers some of the mysteries of life in Brookfield and helps solve everyday problems.

How does annexation

actually work?

Question: Annexation is a common issue that seems to come up a lot involving both the City of Brookfield and the Town of Brookfield. How does the annexation process actually work? Who initiates it? How is it approved?

Response: Annexation of a property is never initiated by government. Property owners or electors make the decision on whether or not they want to annex into a municipality. "Electors" refers to residents who live on the property in question who are 18 years of age or older.

"Petitions to annex are initiated by the owners and electors," City of Brookfield Director of Community Development Dan Ertl said. "There's annexation by what's called unanimous consent petition, meaning all property owners and electors sign a petition. That's the type that have been filed with the city over the last 10 years."

Following the initial movement for annexation, the Wisconsin Department of Administration reviews the case and makes a finding on whether or not the annexation is in the public interest. In addition to that qualification, properties must be contiguous to the municipality with which they are annexing into.

Brookfield City Attorney Karen Flaherty notes that the latter requirement can sometimes be tricky to determine.

"A property may not look like it's contiguous, but depending on who owns the road that it's on, it might be. If they're located on a state road, they could still be contiguous," Flaherty said.

Flaherty also noted that in addition to the property needing to be contiguous to its new municipality, the annexation also cannot result in the creation of an "island" of the municipality from whence it came.

If the property meets the aforementioned criteria, the municipality must then establish temporary zoning for the property and then later approve an annexation ordinance.

Email your questions to Geoff Bruce at

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