City That Annexed Frac Sand Mine Well Outside Its Borders May Face Lawsuit

Independence Annexed Land That Was Not Contiguous To Its Borders, According To DOA


Two towns in Trempealeau County are considering whether to sue Independence, a nearby city of about 1,000 people, over the annexation of a frac sand mine.

Municipalities that are incorporated as cities have long been able to annex property from surrounding towns so long as their borders are physically touching each other. A recent annexation of a frac sand mine by Independence, however, is raising eyebrows and could wind up in court. The annexed property is over a mile from Independence’s borders, and to get to it, the muncipality first had to annex a strip of land through the towns of Lincoln and Burnside.

Jack Speerstra, the longtime chair of Lincoln’s town board, said the result is a funny-looking city boundary.

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“The two descriptions that I’ve heard is a balloon on a string or a flagpole,” said Speerstra.

In 2012, the state Legislature allowed towns contesting annexation to ask the Department of Administration for what’s called a contiguity review — a non-binding opinion on whether an annexed property appears to be touching the city. On Oct. 6, the DOA released its opinion that the frac sand mine annexed by Independence was not contiguous.

Speerstra said that opens the door for a legal challenge: “Now it’s our decision between the two townships to decide if we’re going to pursue it in circuit court,” he said.

If a frac sand company is annexed by a city, it can avoid Trempealeau County regulations pertaining to hours of operation and noise. So far, four frac sand mines there have been annexed. The attorney for Independence was not available for comment.

Clarification: To avoid confusion, any description of Independence as a “village” has been removed from this story. The municipality of 1,000 people was incorporated as a city, and operates as such under administrative law.