City takes no action on annexation petition

Grand Forks City Council won’t be seeking a state attorney general opinion on behalf of residents looking to halt their neighborhood’s annexation into the city.

Shadyridge Court, located to the southeast of Grand Forks, is set to be annexed on Jan. 1, 2014 and the council will not take action on a petition filed by the neighborhood to delay or stop the annexation.

“The annexation is happening,” council member Doug Christensen said.

Under state law, the council does not have to power to delay or halt the annexation so the neighborhood’s last hope seemed to come down to an attorney general opinion in their favor.

State law also limits who can request an opinion. In this case, the city needed to ask for the neighborhood.

Council members decided not to take that course and voted Monday to receive and file the petition submitted by residents and let the annexation proceed as stipulated in a 1996 agreement between the city and the initial landowner.

Seeking opinion

In the agreement, part of the Shadyridge Estates development was annexed in 1996 while the annexation process for the second — then undeveloped — portion was put off till January 2014.

Residents had expressed interest in the city requesting an attorney general opinion to see if the council had the power to delay part of the annexation and if the annexation date was effective when the agreement was recorded or if it would be January 2014.

One of their hopes was that if the attorney general found the annexation process or agreement to be faulty, the annexation could be declared void.

Council member Terry Bjerke said an opinion was unnecessary and may not provide an answer to the questions the residents posed.

Infrastructure upgrades

One of the reasons the residents of Shadyridge Court want to avoid annexation is because of city standards that could transform their neighborhood.

In the petition, residents noted city conventions that annexation could bring such as curbs, gutters and sidewalks would interrupt the natural feel of their neighborhood.

The only immediate need the neighborhood would have meet is updating its water supply system so adequate fire protection could be provided to the area. The cost would be approximately $775,000.

Besides the water update, Bjerke reasoned several of those improvements don’t have to happen. Road improvements are protestable under city law, meaning the neighborhood could block the city from putting in new streets if enough residents were against the project.

The area and its special features could be grandfathered in and not forced to change in appearance, similar to other parts of the city that have been annexed, Bjerke added.

This rational and doubt surrounding the answers an attorney general opinion could provide led the council to vote unanimously in favor of forgoing an opinion request.

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