Dickinson to stand its ground on annexationAfter Dickinson annexed about 325 acres north of town in October, 16 entities retained legal counsel in an attempt to redo the annexation, but the city is standing its ground after a decision at a City Commission meeting at City Hall Monday evening.
After Dickinson annexed about 325 acres north of town in October, 16 entities retained legal counsel in an attempt to redo the annexation, but the city is standing its ground after a decision at a City Commission meeting at City Hall Monday evening.
A letter from Sandra Kuntz of Mackoff Kellogg Law Firm in Dickinson, legal counsel retained by the opposing businesses and landowners, cites “substantial” failures in the annexation process, and all signing parties “demand that the city restart the annexation process with the kind of respect for that process’ integrity that has been so manifestly lacking in the current annexation attempt.”
Kuntz’s letter asks for six items; mainly to “restart and put integrity back into completion of the process.”
City Attorney Matt Kolling said he does not believe land and business owners can state a valid claim for injunctive relief.
“It is my opinion the city has followed North Dakota Century Code with regard to the annexation and that the landowners’ demands seek to impose upon the city substantial obligations in excess of those required under state law,” Kolling said.
Kuntz’s letter cites three main areas where the city allegedly did not follow state laws.
The letter claims the city entered into several agreements granting zoning and platting applications contingent on annexation, a process according to Kuntz is void under Century Code.
Kolling said Century Code does not prohibit making annexation a condition of plat approval.
The city notified all landowners via mail through county records, but some business owners claim they were never contacted regarding the annexation.
“The city is not required to ensure that the property owners receive actual notice of the annexation, it is not required to make sure that property owners read their mail or look at the legal notice in the newspaper or otherwise take time to appreciate the consequences of the annexation,” Kolling said.
City officials also personally visited some businesses, an action Kolling states “went beyond minimum requirements of state law.”
The legal letter on behalf of the 16 businesses also cites “a significant discrepancy” between the proposed annexation area and land actually annexed.
The city’s annexation land description has remained consistent, Kolling said.
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 Century Code.
Kuntz’s letter also claims the city failed to obtain written consent from the North Dakota Department of Transportation.
Kolling said the DOT is in the process of providing written approval.
Landowners and business owners will not be able to prevail as they lack legal standing, Kolling said.
“The allegations of process deficiencies they have made to date do not appear to be based on fact or a sound reading of the state laws that apply to annexation,” Kolling said.
Kolling outlined four options the city could take in response to the business’ requests and city officials agreed to continue moving forward with the annexation.
Kolling said if the matter went to court the city would prevail.
Commissioner Klayton Oltmanns said the city needs to stand its ground.
“We want to make sure that it’s done right the first time,” Oltmanns said. “We don’t want to pay or have our kids pay to correct this at a later date and I think the commission’s been very thorough in developing the annexation plan to make sure that we do do it right the first time.”
Mayor Dennis Johnson has said a goal of the annexation is to have the city grow in an “orderly, fine manner,” and after agreement of all commissioners, Johnson advised Kolling to “stay the course.”