The Kewaunee County Board has gone on record as essentially in opposition to the sale of 420 acres of Black Ash Swamp to the Glacial Lakes Conservancy (GLC) if the land is taken off the property tax rolls.

GLC has applied for a grant under the state’s Nelson-Knowles Stewardship Program to buy the property for “conservation and recreation purposes.” County Board Chairman Robert Weidner said the nonprofit agency met with county officials and indicated it plans to take advantage of the opportunity to make the land tax-exempt.

The board voted 13-2 on March 17 for a resolution that “supports a preservation option that includes financial consideration or continuation of taxable status for this tract of real property to support police, fire, rescue, road maintenance and other costs of local government.”

To make the intent even more clear, supervisors added a line introduced by Supervisor Daniel Olson that the board does not support the purchase if GLC intends to apply for tax-exempt status for the property.

The total real property tax paid on the land for 2019 was $10,814, which would be spread over the rest of the county’s taxpayers if it became tax-exempt. County Administrator Scott Feldt acknowledged the impact on the average taxpayer would be negligible but said the cumulative effect could make a difference if other owners of Black Ash Swamp land were also to sell to a nonprofit.

Weidner said many landowners would love to sell their property after the emerald ash borer and other insects have rendered trees worthless for forestry.

“I feel like we have to take a stand up front before this gets to be a practice of how to unload all this property and take it out of our tax roll,” he said.

Corporation Counsel Jeff Wisnicky said the decision on a Nelson-Knowles grant is up to the state but an adverse resolution from the county could have an effect on that decision. The Lincoln Town Board approved a resolution supporting the purchase in October.

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