In another evening where the center of attention was again the proposed purchase of land along Little Muskego Lake by the city, the Common Council did something it hasn't done on this issue before. A unanimous vote was cast Wednesday night to defer discussion on the merits of a petition, which would force a referendum on the lake park purchase before a deal was completed.
A citizen's group had collected 3,409 signatures to halt the purchase of the lake park, and instead force a referendum to determine if residents even wanted a park on the lake. Many felt there was not enough information gathered prior to the offer to purchase, and costs for the creation of a park were needed.
A smaller group of residents were assembled at Lake Denoon Middle School to speak out on the issue, but opposition far outweighed any positive comment on the park.
While the city's attorney Eric Larson explained that the petition for direct legislation did not have the legal teeth to effectively force a referendum, he did advise the council that they could on their own decide to create a referendum question of their own to be placed on a ballot.
Larson advised the council that the language as stated on the petition would have no legal effect, but if the council could "get it right" by drafting a new referendum question, "it would be clearer, cleaner and more likely to withstand challenge."
The next step for the city and staff would be to draft a new resolution, which could place an advisory referendum question on a ballot. However, with the general election less than six weeks away, and about a week before the next council meeting, a special election would be required. The council will meet again on Tuesday, Feb. 28.