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Hike by the lake: Patterson Lake homeowners face hefty Bureau of Reclamation fee increases

Ray Ann Kilen, a homeowner who pays a permit fee to the Bureau of Reclamation each year to live beside Patterson Lake, has deep roots in the location.

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Tom Fisher, president of the Patterson Lake Homeowners Association, is accompanied by many of the association’s members as he gives a presentation to the Dickinson Park Board about the possible effects of a permit fee increase for homeowners by the lake on Monday at the West River Community Center. (Press Photo by Andrew Wernette)

Ray Ann Kilen, a homeowner who pays a permit fee to the Bureau of Reclamation each year to live beside Patterson Lake, has deep roots in the location.

Kilen said her parents bought land on the lake in 1983 and built on it. Since then, Kilen has bought, built on and sold multiple lots on the lake for herself.

“I’ve been out here about 23 years, I guess,” she said.

However, she and many others on the lake are facing a major hike in their permit fees.

The bureau is raising the annual permit fee for lots on Patterson Lake from around $2,500 to around $6,800, which will go into effect in 2017. The price is irrespective of lot size.

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Bureau spokeswoman Patience Hurley was quoted in the Bismarck Tribune as saying that the adjustment is based on an appraisal of local values done previously.

Property along Lake Tschida near Elgin and the Jamestown Reservoir will also experience a near-doubling and tripling of permit fees, the article stated.

The news has sparked the formation of the Patterson Lake Homeowners Association, of which Kilen is the vice president. The association represents the 41 year-round permittees that live on the lake.

The many members of the association made an appearance before the Dickinson Park Board on Monday, where association president Tom Fisher gave a presentation to the commissioners on how the rate increase would affect lakeside residents.

Fisher said he had lived on his lot for five years, during which he has come to appreciate the beauty of the location and his neighbors.

“It’s the only place I want to live” in the community, he said.

Now, he said he is afraid that much of the neighborhood will be forced to move away.

In the presentation, Fisher said 39 percent of homeowners would be unable to afford the price increase and be forced to move, while 58 percent reported that they could afford it but would incur financial strain because of it. Only one homeowner said the price increase would have no negative impact on them.

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Fisher listed a set of proposed solutions, one of which was the long-term goal of homeowners being able to purchase the land they are on.

Fisher also said they could reject the price hike and review the details with the Park Board. He said he and others believed the appraisal of the properties, which was done in 2014, was inaccurate now that the oil boom has depressed.

He also said the permit price was based off comparable one-acre lots, whereas most of the lots owned by permitted homeowners are 0.3 acres.

“We feel that, the way that they involved some of these numbers is incorrect, and we’d like a legitimate appraisal,” he said.

Fisher said another proposal was for the price implementation to be delayed while the community reviews it, and that it be implemented in phases.

For Kilen, the new fees would put a damper on her plans to build and move into a smaller house on the lake before she retires.

“It gets to be kind of a difficult situation,” she said.

Added to taxes that they already pay, Kilen said she and her neighbors could be paying close to $10,000 annually just for taxes and fees.

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She is also concerned for some of her neighbors who are on a fixed income and could simply not afford paying such a fee.

At the meeting, the commissioners agreed with Fisher that the Bureau of Reclamation’s assessment did not seem accurate. Commissioner Howard Sharpe noted that the rise in permit fees would devalue the homeowner’s property.

“It’s a vicious circle, and it’s not right,” Sharpe said.

The board agreed to designate two of its commissioners to work with the association to try and find a solution to the problem.

Fisher said in an interview that he has got to know more of his neighbors on the lake in recent weeks because of the price hike.

He said he wasn’t concerned about his own situation as much as how it will affect the lakeside community as a whole.

The association meets again on March 21, and its executive board will meet on March 28 with the Park Board.

Fisher and Kilen both said the association remains optimistic that something can be worked out.

“We’re really excited to be working together with the Park Board on these issues,” Fisher said.

Related Topics: DICKINSON
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