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September 2014


Andy Schatschneider | I Want to Know

I Want to Know

What is an unincorporated community?

A couple of weeks ago, more than 90 Town of Merton residents sent letters to the Town Board protesting the fact that the town's new decorative banners welcomed people to the Town of Merton instead of to the unincorporated communities of North Lake, Stone Bank and Monches.

But just what is an unincorporated community?

According to Carol Nawrocki, senior legal counsel for the Wisconsin Towns Association, unincorporated communities like the three listed above are small "hamlets" that are not separate legal entities. They are located within larger municipalities, but by themselves have no authority to tax, no elections and no municipal budget, in short, none of the trappings that come along with being a town, village or city.

These communities are really more of a historical or traditional crossroads area, Nawrocki said, and are often referred to as a "village," although they aren't villages in the true legal sense. While the areas have no legally recognized borders, people who live in them usually have a good feel for what's part of their "village" and what's not.

Unincorporated communities like the ones in the Town of Merton are all over the State of Wisconsin, Nawrocki said. While they can occasionally be found within the borders of cities or villages, they are almost always located within the more rural confines of towns.

The term "unincorporated community" can also refer to towns, as the only municipalities that are by definition incorporated in Wisconsin are cities and villages.

What do you want to know? E-mail your questions to iwanttok

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