With one word, state Rep. Andy Jorgensen succeeds and fails in calming the annexation anxiety in towns and municipalities.
The Fort Atkinson Democrat is proposing a bill that would add the word “contiguous” to the state’s annexation law, meaning a city or village could annex town land only if the property is adjacent to municipal property.
It’s a logical move because it prevents cities and villages from annexing islands of property within towns, which pockmarks the towns and forces them to maintain roads connecting two parts of a city.
Then Jorgensen undoes his logic by leaving the word “contiguous” open to interpretation. His bill would let towns legally challenge a city’s interpretation of the word. Apparently, he expects disputes over whether, for instance, two properties are contiguous if they are separated by a river or a road.
But Jorgensen already settled the dispute with the first half of his bill. Contiguous means in physical contact. There is no gray area, no room for debate and certainly no reasonable grounds for a legal challenge.
If two properties are touching, they are contiguous. If they are not touching, they are not contiguous.
Creating laws is a complicated business, and there’s no reason to make it more difficult. In the case of his bill, Jorgensen can solve his problem with one word: Webster’s.
Chris Thompson is the editor at The Daily Reporter. He sits in a contiguous cubicle, and once tried to annex a staff writer’s desk.