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City of Dickinson grows leery of annexations

City Planner Ed Courton, left, and Assistant City Engineer Nathan Peck listen as commissioner speak at a Monday Dickinson City Commission meeting at City Hall. Peck is taking former City Engineer Shawn Soehren's place at City Commission.

As Dickinson's population grows the City Commission is beginning to become leery of mass annexations that would also increase the acres for which the city is responsible.

"We need to be more surgical with our annexations," Commissioner Gene Jackson said at a Monday night Dickinson City Commission meeting at City Hall.

There were four annexations on Monday's agenda, the Herauf land, a 310-acre tract, the much smaller 4-acre Northern Heights subdivision, the 24-acre Lyon's Third Addition and the Walton Family annexation, which totals around 80 acres.

The Commission approved Northern Heights and Lyon's Third subdivisions, but tabled the larger annexations pending plans until the Nov. 19 meeting.

Dickinson's comprehensive plan is due during the early part of 2013 and City Planner Ed Courton urged commissioners to contemplate the type of information that could be in that document and how further annexation could be affected by it.

"Two to three months is not going to adversely impact (development of land proposed for annexation)," he said. "It would allow staff to have a time to digest what the goals and policies are."

Mike Koch, the developer of the Herauf land, was worried that those months would impact development given North Dakota's short building season, adding he and other developers were more than happy to help the city with infrastructure and other needs.

Commission President Dennis Johnson encouraged developers to continue with plans as though they are annexed. Jackson suggested the Commission come up with a system to ensure developers that the city will annex once development is further along.

Part of the worry is that once commissioners give first approval of an annexation, if there is no public outcry, or, as in the case of the Herauf land, it only has one owner, the land is essentially approved for annexation due to North Dakota Century Code procedure, City Attorney Matt Kolling said.

If preliminary approval was given to the Herauf land Monday, it will essentially be officially approved Dec. 17 and the Commission would have no more time to discuss the matter, Johnson said.

While he favored annexing small portions of land, the 300-plus acres adjacent to State Avenue, known as the Herauf land, was a bit large, Jackson said. But he would be in favor of annexing the portion closest to the main thoroughfare to begin with.

"There has to be a point that we as a commission say 'We've done enough for now,'" he said. "I think we should annex a portion of this soon, on the west side of State Avenue."

Once the city annexes in a portion of land it assumes all maintenance and safety responsibility of that land.

"We did something a month ago that we now have a road that we will have to keep clear of snow this winter that's two miles away from the city," Jackson said.

Insurance Service Office regulations state that a fire station can be no more than five road miles away from buildings within city boundaries, Dickinson Fire Department Chief Bob Sivak said. While the fire hall, which is centrally-located downtown, is within a five-mile radius of all city boundaries, it may be more than five road miles from the furthest corners of land proposed for annexation.

"There's a lot of good things here," Jackson said. "But we don't have to do this all at once."

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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