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Published November 14, 2013, 10:53 AM

City Council committee OKs Shadyridge residents’ request for AG opinion

Questions surrounding one neighborhood’s annexation worries could be answered by the North Dakota attorney general if the Grand Forks City Council authorizes the city to request an opinion.

By: Brandi Jewett, Forum News Service

Questions surrounding one neighborhood’s annexation worries could be answered by the North Dakota attorney general if the Grand Forks City Council authorizes the city to request an opinion.

Unresolved confusion over an annexation agreement’s effective date has residents of Shadyridge Court, located just outside of Grand Forks’ southeast city limits, requesting an attorney general opinion to clear up the matter.

On Wednesday, the council’s finance committee agreed to grant the neighborhood’s request.

“I think it’s prudent we request an attorney general’s opinion,” council member Doug Christensen said. “I don’t think there is any downside for the city to request an opinion.”

The neighborhood sent a petition to the city last month asking it to delay its annexation scheduled for Jan. 1, 2014.

In the petition, residents argue against the annexation because they like their neighborhood’s natural feel and do not want upgraded and new infrastructure such as sidewalks and gutters, required by the city, to interfere with it.

The upgrades and installations also would have the 19 property owners chipping in a large sum of money for special assessments.

The agreement at the root of the petition was signed by the city and the neighborhood’s developer in 1996.

At that time, part of the development known as Shadyridge Estates was annexed by the city. The remainder was set aside to be annexed in 2014.

At the Oct. 28 finance committee meeting, City Attorney Howard Swanson told residents the council does not have the power to delay the annexation.

Potential findings

There may a downside for neighborhood residents if Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem finds the effective date of the agreement is 1996 instead of 2014 when the annexation is set to take place.

A state law correcting the omission of property from the county tax rolls could leave the residents liable for city property taxes from 1996 onward.

Shadyridge resident and local judge Lawrence Jahnke said he didn’t think the law applied to neighborhood’s situation partly because its residents have been paying county taxes.

Another, less likely outcome of the opinion would be the attorney general declaring the annexation process void, according to Swanson.

Two weeks ago, Jahnke said he would take the information about the state law back to the residents. At Wednesday’s meeting, he said the neighborhood is still willing to go forward with an opinion.

The neighborhood’s request will be heard and voted on next week by the full council. Because state law restricts who can request an attorney general’s opinion, the city must request the opinion on behalf of the neighborhood.

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