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Dickinson responds to annexation injunction

Dickinson will continue to stand firm in its convictions of annexing about 325 acres north of town after landowners and businesses filed legal action to temporarily stop the process and it will now be brought before a judge.

After a motion for a temporary injunction against the annexation was filed with the Stark County Courthouse Jan. 5, the city filed a response Friday afternoon, citing the request has no basis and asks the court to deny the entire motion.

The motion alleges the city failed to notify landowners, allegedly failed to notify and obtain written consent from the North Dakota Department of Transportation to annex a portion of Highway 22 and allegedly placed annexation contingencies on land plats and zoning requests.

"Dickinson's annexation process was fully compliant with North Dakota law and the plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief is without merit," according to the city's response.

In each of the alleged failures, the city cites several reasons why it feels it did not violate state law.

State law requires the city to notify land owners of record, via "the person's last known mailing address" of the annexation resolution, time and place of a hearing and a requirement that protests must be filed in writing, according to the city's response.

The landowners and businesses claim several owners do not appear on a city mailing matrix, according to the motion for injunction.

The city claims it mailed a notice to each owner at their last known address and state law does not require the city to notify via certified mail, according to the city's response.

The city also claims state law "does not require an annexing city to determine the owner of the property definitively."

"By definition, a 'last known' address may not be an owner's 'current address,' " according to the city's response.

"It (the city) is not required to make sure that property owners read their mail, look at the legal notices in the newspaper or otherwise take time to appreciate the consequences of their right to protest the annexation," according to the city's response.

City Attorney Matt Kolling said the City Commission was upfront when approving a plat contingent upon annexation for the North Industries Addition, the largest section in the area in question.

"Where the landowners are wrong, in our opinion, is that that is not a violation of North Dakota law," Kolling said. "There's nothing in North Dakota law that prohibits a city from approving a plat contingent upon annexation."

Kolling said the NDDOT's consent to annexation was provided before it became effective.

Sandra Kuntz, a Dickinson attorney representing more than a dozen businesses and landowners in the motion for temporary injunction, said from this point, a hearing in front of a judge will be scheduled.

"This case in a nutshell is about integrity in the process," Kuntz said. "There will be an appropriate response by our side as well."

Kuntz said the plaintiffs must respond in less than 10 days.

"There's nothing that the landowners have identified that's a violation of North Dakota law," Kolling said.