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Published October 29, 2013, 11:57 AM

Residents of Shadyridge Court in Grand Forks want annexation options

It’s been 17 years since an annexation agreement was signed for the neighborhood of Shadyridge Court, located just south of Grand Forks.

By: Brandi Jewett, Grand Forks Herald

It’s been 17 years since an annexation agreement was signed for the neighborhood of Shadyridge Court, located just south of Grand Forks.

Now, as the Jan. 1, 2014 annexation date looms, its residents are petitioning City Council to delay it. City staff members say a council vote won’t grant residents their request.

According to City Attorney Howard Swanson, the council had the power to approve the agreement, but, under state law, it does not have the authority to delay the annexation date.

This conclusion has Shadyridge Court resident and local judge Lawrence Jahnke, along with his neighbors, considering whether or not to ask the city to request an opinion from the North Dakota attorney general on the matter.

Council members expressed concern that the opinion could open a can of worms that may have the neighborhood retroactively paying 17 years of city property taxes.

“It would be devastating,” Council President Hal Gershman said of the potential tax bill.

The state law that could make the scenario a reality isn’t interpreted the same way by Jahnke. As written, he believes it only applies to county taxes, which the neighborhood has been paying.

“We have not been omitted from the tax rolls of the county,” he said. “The law doesn’t address city taxes.”

No action was taken at Monday night’s finance committee meeting where council members met with city staff and neighborhood residents to discuss the matter. The groups will meet again for discussion in two weeks.

History

The neighborhood’s trouble begins with an annexation agreement approved in 1996, which annexed part of what is known as Shadyridge Estates.

Another portion of the development was left out of city limits with instructions to annex it on Jan. 1, 2014.

Fast-forward 17 years and a majority of property owners in that area are asking the city to leave them be for now.

Part of the reason is cost. Should the neighborhood be annexed, the estimated cost of bringing it up to city infrastructure requirements could be around $775,000 — a cost that would be borne by the neighborhood’s 19 property owners.

The cost is for updating the neighborhood’s water system to provide adequate fire protection to homes.

Down the road, the area also would need sidewalks, gutters, a sewer system and concrete streets, which residents say in their petition, would interfere with the “unique nature” of the neighborhood.

Moving forward

With an inquiry into the council’s authority settled, the question becomes what are the neighborhood’s options?

One possibility is proceeding through a petition process to reconsider the annexation, which would require what Swanson called a “large number” of signatures from Grand Forks’ residents.

The other option Shadyridge Court residents could pursue is an opinion from the state attorney general.

Swanson said there are a few conclusions the opinion could find. The first is it could affirm the effective date of the annexation agreement, which could be 1996, when the annexation agreement was recorded, or 2014.

If the effective date of the agreement is found to be 1996, a state law correcting the omission of property from the tax rolls could leave the residents liable for city property taxes from 1996 onward.

Jahnke said he was unaware of that state law before Monday’s meeting. He agreed with a committee recommendation to take the law’s language back to residents and reevaluate the neighborhood’s options.

Another less likely scenario is the attorney general could declare the annexation process void and the city would have to start it again.

An opinion could take up to 180 days, potentially putting its arrival date past the annexation deadline. Who can request an opinion is restricted by state law. In this case, the city would have to ask for it on behalf of the Shadyridge Court residents.

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