16 businesses want annexation redoneSixteen businesses recently annexed into Dickinson city limits demand the City Commission reverse its decision and start over, placing “integrity back into completion of the process,” before taking legal action.
Sixteen businesses recently annexed into Dickinson city limits demand the City Commission reverse its decision and start over, placing “integrity back into completion of the process,” before taking legal action.
In October the City Commission annexed about 325 acres on the city’s north side, but the move hasn’t sat well with many affected business and landowners.
“The city’s failures in this process are substantial enough to compel a court of this state to issue injunctive relief to stop the annexation and force the city to restart the process,” according to a letter from Attorney Sandra Kuntz of the Mackoff Kellogg Law Firm in Dickinson, counsel retained by the 16 businesses.
Preliminary review of City Commission minutes and information from impacted landowners reveals the city failed “in several substantial ways to follow the process for any annexation,” according to the letter.
The hand-delivered letter, dated Nov. 24, demands “that the city restart the annexation process and conduct that process with the kind of respect for that process’ integrity that has been so manifestly lacking in the current annexation attempt.”
City Administrator Shawn Kessel believes the city followed annexation procedures outlined by state law, and in some regards, exceeded them.
Kuntz cites three deficiencies in the process along with legal basis for each, according to the letter.
After her review of City Commission minutes, Kuntz says “the city entered into several agreements which conditioned the granting of zoning and platting applications on the completion of annexation.”
Under North Dakota Century Code, such agreements are void, according to Kuntz’s letter.
Several landowners did not receive mailed notification of the city’s intent to annex, a requirement of state Century Code, according to the letter.
Part of the annexed area includes Highway 22 acreage and “no state-owned property may be annexed without the written consent of the state agency or department having control of the property,” Kuntz cites from state Century Code.
“Not only are we aware that the city cannot provide proof that it properly noticed the owner of each parcel of real property within the area to be annexed, but the city cannot provide proof that the state of North Dakota was properly and timely noticed nor provided written consent prior to the annexation,” according to the letter.
A “significant discrepancy” exists between the proposed annexation area contained in the city’s resolution, land actually annexed and the final annexation plat map, according to the letter.
“In light of these many and various shortcomings and the clear failure by the city to honor the integrity of North Dakota’s annexation process,” Kuntz’s clients have six demands, according to the letter.
The businesses and landowners are demanding the city disregard any conditions for platting and/or zoning “that were made in contemplation of a promise to not oppose annexation of those lands,” immediately terminate annexation proceedings and begin the process with clear descriptions and maps of what the city wishes to annex, redraw annexation boundaries, notify landowners via certified mail and follow state statues closely to allow sufficient time for opposing landowners to file protest and have a public hearing, according to the letter.
Of the six requests, Kessel said until the City Commission has had a chance to discuss the matter, he cannot predict what the city’s response will be.
A response is requested of the city by Tuesday.
“We didn’t anticipate it prior, but it became evident throughout the process that there was enough upset on behalf of some of the property owners that this became more and more likely,” Kessel said.
If it comes down to filing of an injunction and the platting processes beginning again from square one, Kessel says an immediate reaction could mean the loss of hundreds of jobs for Dickinson.
“There’s several companies that I understand are looking to purchase land in that North Industries plat specifically and those industries would bring literally hundreds of jobs to the city of Dickinson and there’s no telling whether or not they will stick around so to speak. They have the ability to go elsewhere,” Kessel said. “If this platting and annexation process is delayed even two months that could jeopardize their decision on location.”
Kessel said the matter will be discussed at a City Commission meeting beginning at 5:15 p.m. on Monday at City Hall.
“At this point there’s not a whole lot I can say on it,” said City Attorney Matt Kolling. “At the meeting I’ll present some information on it and City Commissioners will have to make a decision about how they want to proceed.”
However, Kolling says review of the process indicates the city complied with all state law.
“It’s been done so haphazardly that we’re still in question of many things I guess,” said Danette Gayda, safety coordinator and officer manager for Ironworks Welding, Inc., one of the 16 businesses requesting a redo of the process.
Gayda says her family’s business wasn’t notified of “many things” and the process could have been more cohesive and complete.
A call to Kuntz went unreturned.