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Patterson Lake residents discuss concerns of permit fee increases with Bureau of Reclamation

An impending hike in permit fees for homeowners beside Patterson Lake was the subject of an informational meeting held Thursday among different parties at the Heart River Retreat in Dickinson.

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Scott Hettinger, the outdoor recreation planner for the Bureau of Recreation’s Dakotas Area Office, speaks at an informational meeting on permit fee increases for homeowners beside Patterson Lake Thursday at the Heart River Retreat. (Press Photo by Andrew Wernette)

An impending hike in permit fees for homeowners beside Patterson Lake was the subject of an informational meeting held Thursday among different parties at the Heart River Retreat in Dickinson.

Organized in a square, members of the Dickinson Park Board and the Bureau of Reclamation addressed questions brought up by the Patterson Lake Homeowners Association, which represents 41 homeowners that reside on Bureau of Reclamation land by means of a permitting process.

The bureau announced late last month that a new permit fee of around $6,800 would be implemented at the beginning of 2017, a sharp increase that many affected homeowners have balked at. The measure was done following a 2014 assessment completed at the height of the oil boom.

Many homeowners have expressed that this would cause them significant financial hardship, with some claiming that they would have to move.

Dickinson Parks Director James Kramer said there had been misinformation floating around about the current actual permit price. He said it starts off at $2,839.99 each year, but the Park Board offers a 12 percent reduction in that fee if people make their payment before Feb. 15, which makes the fee come down to around $2,500. Most homeowners take advantage of this, he said.

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Kramer also said the money collected by the Bureau of Reclamation doesn’t stay in its hands, but ultimately makes its way back to the Park Board for the upkeep of the lake and the property around it.

Scott Hettinger, the outdoor recreation planner for the Bureau of Recreation’s Dakotas Area Office, explained that part of the reason for the price hike was because federal law requires the government agency to have property reflect local market values.

“We can’t be in competition with private industry,” Hettinger said.

He acknowledged the long gap between this assessment and the last one that was executed in the late 1990s, which he attributed to the expense of doing such appraisals and the bureau seeking out ways to impose the least amount of cost on taxpayers in this respect.

“I understand your frustration,” Hettinger told the others.

Nevertheless, he said the new permit fee would without a doubt be implemented next year.

Tom Fisher, the president of the homeowners association, gave statistics he had compiled previously through an anonymous survey distributed to the 41 permitted homeowners. One of the findings stated that 13 homeowners said they would be forced to move due to the cost.

“I guess our long-term goal … is to be able to purchase these lots somehow,” Fisher said, adding that this shed residents of the hassle of undergoing these adjustments every five years.

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The most likely possibility of short-term alleviation that emerged at the meeting was the a three-year phased-in implementation of the permit fee, for which the Park Board could appeal to the Bureau of Reclamation in the future.

Pat Weir, who said he was there on behalf of his brother who lives on the lake, asked if it was possible to provide the bureau with information showing that the peak of the oil boom had passed and that property prices were falling, which might move the agency to do another appraisal. Those from the Bureau of Reclamation said it was a likely possibility.

“I can’t believe that this analysis would stand up in March and April of 2016,” Weir said.

Kramer agreed with Weir.

“I think that there’s general information that’s almost two years old that’s really skewed this,” he said, adding that he believed there was a “weird economic spin” that had now made the assessment “not accurate” to the current times.

Kramer concluded that, moving forward, the Park Board should work on the goals of seeking the phased-in implementation, drafting up all the concerns of the permittees and continuing their efforts to live there long-term.

Another meeting involving the Park Board, the Patterson Lake Homeowners Association and other parties is scheduled to take place at 4:30 p.m. Monday at the Strom Center.

Patience Hurley, the bureau office’s public involvement specialist, said she hoped a reappraisal would happen to the homeowners’ benefit, and that there was a reason she and her colleagues had attended the meeting to hear their concerns.

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“We understand that it’s a big jump,” she said. “Please know that that is not lost on us.”

Related Topics: PATTERSON LAKE
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