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Plans for 40th Street special assessment district blocked

Dickinson City Commission members are looking for alternatives to a proposed special assessment district for the 40th Street Improvement Project after the plan was blocked Monday.

Under the district, the city would have paid up front for the roughly $7 million in street improvements — sewers, stormwater and road work — and the owners of the 13 different parcels of adjacent land would repay $2 million in the future.

Landowners had 30 days to protest the district after the resolution was introduced in May.

The resolution brought before Monday’s commission meeting found that more than half of the properties included in the proposed district had protested the move: Fredrick Tooz and Tooz Construction Inc., Northern Improvement Co., SLH Properties LLC, Lee & Melanie Kathrein and Halliburton Energy Services. Altogether, the properties represented about 2.8 million square feet — roughly 66 percent of the total area along 40th Street.

“Our main objection is that we do not have a clear, defined amount that would be assessed to our properties,” wrote Tooz Construction Vice President Tracy Tooz in his letter protesting the establishment of a special assessment district.

“The new proposed infrastructure benefits the larger public in general,” wrote Tami Norgard, a lawyer representing Northern Improvement Co., in a protest letter. “Adjacent property owners should not be asked to pay $2 million of the project and be expected to donate right of way for their commercial properties.”

She argued that Northern Improvement hasn’t requested and doesn’t need water and sewer at its 40th Street property and shouldn’t have to pay the possible $167,000 share of construction costs.

With the proposed special assessment district no longer an option after months of negotiations over who should fund the necessary streetwork, commissioner Gene Jackson asked the “obvious” question: “Where are we headed in the move forward?”

Kolling said there have been discussions among city staff about what to do about 40th Street.

“We do think the improvements that are up there are necessary, would be a benefit to the city to get them completed,” he said.

It’s not the end of the road for 40th Street, whose improvements are prioritized at No. 24 on the list of 42 projects under the Capital Infrastructure Improvement Plan.

“We’ve got some staff work to do to put together a sort of Plan C as we move forward,” Kolling said. “But we do think there are opportunities for us to continue on with the improvements.”

One possibility would be to establish a new special assessment district to cover only water and sanitary sewer service costs. Under the Century Code, Kolling said, there is no protest period for water- and sewer-only districts.

Jackson said he was “glad to hear” that the city can still proceed with the improvement plan, but noted that he is disappointed that the original special assessment district was blocked.

“I think the plan we have is really reasonable,” he said.

The latest delay might mean even limited construction on water and sewer isn’t completed this year, but Kolling said he still feels that the city has made progress on 40th Street.

“We’ve had conversations with landowners,” he said. “We learned what their needs are. The process has been good.”

Even if landowners can’t protest a potential special assessment district for water and sewer work, Kolling said he and the city “are going to continue to have those discussions with landowners, regardless. We want to have them involved.”

Kolling added that he will speak with landowners over the next couple of weeks, and anticipates moving forward with plans for water and sewer work.