After much discussion, the City of Dickinson and Stark County have agreed to establish an advisory committee to help affirm which areas within the extra 2-mile radius known as the extra-territorial zone (ETZ) will become part of the expansion. The committee is set to include representatives from both city and county governmental bodies along with one representative from the Parks and Recreation Board and the Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport.

City and county officials, along with a roomful of Stark County and city residents, gathered for the joint zoning transitional meeting Wednesday, Oct. 6, at City Hall. Mayor Scott Decker noted that it is important to create a separate committee with the support of city and county staff to “hash out the boundaries” of the ETZ that meets in a regular public forum.

“I know Bismarck and Burleigh County when they worked through this, … a lot of the boundaries that they looked at geography played into some of it,” Decker said. “Some of this is not going to develop; we can be honest, it’s just not going to develop.”

Decker recommended that the subcommittee can identify which areas will be designated for the city’s or county’s jurisdiction and then come before each commission for approval.

A crowd fills up the commission room at City Hall Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, during a special meeting regarding the ETZ expansion. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)
A crowd fills up the commission room at City Hall Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, during a special meeting regarding the ETZ expansion. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)
City Commissioner John Odermann looks over a map that indicates where the ETZ is located outside of city limits during a special meeting regarding the ETZ expansion Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, at City Hall. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)
City Commissioner John Odermann looks over a map that indicates where the ETZ is located outside of city limits during a special meeting regarding the ETZ expansion Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, at City Hall. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

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During the meeting, City attorney Christina Wenko clarified the difference between the ETZ expansion and annexation, noting that the ETZ extends from the city’s corporate city limits. Wenko added that the corporate city limits and the City of Dickinson are not changing; those areas still fall under the county's jurisdiction.

“By statute, the purpose of the zoning transition meeting is to review existing zoning rules, regulations and restrictions currently in place in the territory to be extra-territorial zoned and to be planned for the orderly transition,” Wenko said. “I hope that it’s the goal of the city as well as the county to plan for the continued growth and expansion of this community.”

Wenko added that it is vital to have an “open and productive dialogue” regarding that additional 2-mile ETZ, by identifying particular areas of concern for the city and county and designate jurisdiction of those said areas.

According to Wenko, the city’s main priorities with the ETZ are the Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport and Patterson Lake. Before discussions between city and county played out, Wenko noted the importance of designating a subcommittee that could “really hammer out and identify” which areas would fall under county or city jurisdiction.

Stark County Commissioner Bernie Marsh asked how this ETZ would affect farmers in those highlighted areas.

“If this zoning process goes out there and you have 76-square miles… there’s a lot of farmers that are out there. How is that going to affect whatever it is that they may or need to do with their building or whatever that they need to do?” Marsh said.

Planning Director Walter Hadley noted that the city would not want to prohibit those agricultural individuals from conducting business.

“The zoning would be complementary in my opinion to what the county has, which would be agriculture,” Hadley said. “... In a nutshell, we definitely support the agricultural community.”

City Administrator Brian Winningham speaks during a special meeting regarding the ETZ expansion Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, at City Hall. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)
City Administrator Brian Winningham speaks during a special meeting regarding the ETZ expansion Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, at City Hall. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

Sandra Kuntz, a member of the Stark County Planning and Zoning Board, posed some questions on how the ETZ expansion of 4 miles is beneficial to both the city and county.

“... Your comments about extending city services to the airport and taking over a bigger portion of Patterson Lake, that tells me if you’re going to make that investment then the next thing we will see for those particular areas you invest that infrastructure is an annexation,” Kuntz said. “So that will be lost revenues for the county. Am I not correct?”

City Administrator Brian Winningham replied that annexation is not the case in this situation according to the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Winningham added that the City of Dickinson hasn’t annexed smaller towns such as South Heart. At approximately a 3% annual population growth, Winningham said he doesn’t see the population growth to support an annexation any time soon.

Appointed by the governor to assist the City of Williston with this same type of situation, Kuntz said she learned from those meetings how critical it can be to rely on old data. As a proposed challenge, Kuntz encouraged the city to look at its Comprehensive Plan to see whether it is still accurate with Dickinson’s current economic conditions and population.

Over the last six months, Winningham noted that the city has made revisions to the Comprehensive Plan.

“... A lot of that is hypothetical, and those are future dragons that we have to consider but we may not have to fight today,” Winningham said, adding, “I think what you’re saying about correct data is vital for the city planning; it’s vital for our professional staff to essentially pout offers to planning and zoning and to our city commission.

Dickinson resident Bob Zent, who served 19 years on the Airport Authority Commission and is still involved in civil air patrol, provided a bit of insight into considerations to be made with regard to ETZ expansion surrounding the airport.

“The idea of bringing water and sewer out there is very viable. There’s tremendous potential for commercial development in and around the airport, and that needs to be regulated and encouraged. So I think it’s very good that you’re considering the zoning around the airport,” Zent said. “My only thing that I want to have all the people keep in mind is commercial (expansion) on and around the airport is very good; residential gets a little more problematic. If you look at any airport in the country — Denver is my classic example. They moved way out in the boondocks because of the complaints of the people that were living around the airport. Well, guess what? People moved out to the airport. You need to watch out for that… It’s just a chronic problem. Our airport has potential for a lot of expansion, and as you grow as a city that airport’s going to need to grow. So don’t, don’t box it in. (It’s) very important — do not box it in."

Andrew Schrank, a Dickinson resident and civil engineer at Highlands Engineering and Surveying, applauded the city and county for its plan to move forward and work together. As an engineer, Schrank noted that he has done a fair amount of work with ETZ expansions and it’s important to know how engineering of the ETZ will be handled.

“In my opinion, it’s not real clear, in the ETZ, who is responsible for reviewing the infrastructure, improving infrastructure, building infrastructure, all those things in the ETZ,” Schrank said. “It’s been handled differently on different developments that we’ve done in the past. At times, we’ve had assurances required to build infrastructure with the city where the city really has no final say in that infrastructure. It’s ultimately county infrastructure or privately maintained infrastructure.”