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Dickinson's annexation brings acres, concerns

In order to accommodate all of the people flooding into its boundaries, the City of Dickinson is expanding through annexation, but some are worried what might happen with land before it's developed.

At both October City Commission meetings, Commissioner Gene Jackson expressed his concern over annexing more land into the city when there are still undeveloped parcels in the area.

"I think, with any of this development that's happening, any phase of the development that's happening we can get out ahead of ourselves," Jackson said Friday. "While today we need lots of new homes built still and we need lots of apartments built, we have a lot of housing needs, I think it's the actions that affect the future that we have to be careful of."

Once a piece of land is annexed into Dickinson, it becomes the city's responsibility for upkeep. This can become an issue for city services, especially the fire department, because of a lack of infrastructure, Dickinson Fire Department Chief Bob Sivak said.

"Even though it may be a large tract that's undeveloped, we now, as far as the fire department goes, we now have a large, undeveloped tract of land that may support a large grass fire," he said. "We may have structures, existing properties, that come in as part of the annexation that are going to demand our services and we don't have our supporting infrastructure in place."

An undeveloped piece of land also poses different fire threats than one full of houses or businesses and can require a different type of equipment.

"If too much land area comes into city limits that does not get developed it may drive us having to have a different type of equipment," Sivak said.

They do have a shared services agreement with the Dickinson Rural Fire Department, but cannot depend on it, because rural Dickinson takes priority for that department, he said.

Dickinson and Stark County work closely together when planning subdivisions and deciding what parcels would best belong as part of the city, and what works best as county land, Jackson said.

"We really have to be communicating well between city and county," he said. "There really has to be a good partnership between city and county."

There was controversy over an October 2010 decision to annex 325 acres that now comprise north Dickinson into the city.

The city only entertains formal requests for annexation, Jackson said.

"We're not initiating any annexation that's not requested by someone," he said. "When someone does request that a piece of ground be annexed, we have to look at the adjacent grounds, also, to see if makes sense to bring those lands in along with the parcels that are being requested to avoid island and inefficient peninsulas that kind of thing."

Caution is best practiced in annexation, Jackson said.

"With annexation that means that our police, our fire, maintenance people, it means we become responsible for weed control, for taking care of accidents that happen on roads out there," he said. "We become responsible for snow removal on those roads and the maintenance of those roads. None of those things individually is a huge thing, but when you add them together it does bring more responsibility."

A want for annexation does not guarantee it.

Three representatives of the Walton property, a parcel just south of the Roers Development in west Dickinson, spoke at a Dickinson 2035: Roadmap to the Future on Thursday evening, and asked the assemblage why their land had not been annexed, nor was it planned for annexation in Dickinson 2035.

"It makes sense to annex this property because it's right in the path of the growth," said Mathew Reichert, real estate broker with Bismarck-based Aspen Group who represents the property in question. "To skip the property and jump across the interstate and to go quite a bit farther north" would require much more more.

Annexation is only the beginning, Jackson said.

"After the annexation on a piece of ground it has to be rezoned and replatted as well," he said. "We have to take a look at each step of development to make sure that we're not getting too far ahead."

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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