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Germantown uses impact fees to acquire land with no owner

Oct. 30, 2012

Germantown - The Germantown Village Board on Monday approved using impact fees for its acquisition of land in Wilderness Park that was found to have no known owner back in August.

The board approved using $10,000 of the Parks and Recreation impact fees as a reimbursement for purchasing a 10-acre, 30-foot swath of land running through the heart of the Germantown swamp. A surveyor for the village discovered in summer that the village did not actually own that piece of land. Years ago, the swamp land was donated to the village, which assumed ownership over that 10-acre parcel at the headwaters of the Menomonee River.

With no deed and no known owner, the village officials in August approved a $10,000 eminent domain jurisdictional offer for those 10 acres. On Monday, the board approved using Parks and Recreation Department impact fees to reimburse the village for that cost.

Finance Director Kim Rath said Parks and Recreation impact fees can be used to purchase land for parks, for playgrounds or athletic fields. She said at the meeting this was an appropriate use of those funds.

"It's a transfer showing (the funds coming) out of impact fees and into revenues," Rath said, adding that the payment is already made and this is showing the budgetary transaction. "It's brought forward to see if you want to cover the $10,000 with impact fees."

Village Attorney Brian Sadjak agreed that this would fall under an appropriate use of impact fees, since it is an acquisition of land.

The village will not officially own the land for two years. That is how long an heir to the land has to come forward and claim it. Should they prove ownership, they will receive the $10,000 as an award of damages. That amount was the assessed value of the land.

The $10,000 was given to the Washington County clerk of courts to hold for two years. Once the two years is up, if there is no determined owner, the county will keep the money and Germantown will officially own the land.

The village discovered the land had no traceable record when the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District was looking to obtain land in Wilderness Park that is owned by the village. Though the deal never went through, a surveyor was assigned to ensure the property lines were detailed correctly.

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