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Annexation plan advances

Nearly 40 Stanley Township residents filed into Fargo's City Commission chambers just before 8 a.m.

Nearly 40 Stanley Township residents filed into Fargo's City Commission chambers just before 8 a.m. Wednesday hoping to find out where they stand in the city's proposed annexation of their property.

They walked away two hours later with the message that their land dispute with Fargo probably won't be over anytime soon.

After hearing from city staff and township residents, planning commissioners voted 8-0 in favor of moving forward with the annexation of more than 1,300 acres between 52nd and 64th avenues south and 57th Street South and the Sheyenne Diversion.

Now, land owners can submit written protests, which the city's elected leaders may consider before making the final decision, said Planning Commissioner Tom Martin.

If at least 25 percent of the land area protests and Fargo still decides to proceed with the annexation, Gov. John Hoeven will have to appoint a mediator to help the two sides reach a compromise. This process could take several months.

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A public hearing was not on the schedule for Wednesday's planning meeting, but Planning Chairman John Q. Paulsen said he wanted to give concerned citizens the opportunity to be heard.

Still, residents were not successful in convincing the commissioners to recommend stopping the annexation.

Daryl Hanson and several other residents said they have concerns about the 17 percent tax increase they will face if they are in the city limits.

And, if state legislators ever change the Fargo/West Fargo school boundaries to coincide with city limits -- as was discussed during the last legislative session -- residents would see their taxes escalate even higher since the Fargo school mill levy is higher than West Fargo's.

Hanson calculated the tax increase to be almost 36 percent more if the township was in the Fargo school system.

If these same residents became part of Horace, as they prefer, the tax increase would be about 3 percent, said Horace City Attorney Steve McCullough, who also represents the "Stanley Township Citizens Against Annexation" group.

Some residents also said they are upset that their rural lives will be disrupted, even though current zoning allows for horses, livestock and open burning with a permit.

What won't be allowed, though, are snowmobiles -- a disappointment to Danelle Johnson, who enjoys riding snowmobiles with her family right up to their front door in the Greyhawk Estates subdivision.

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"I'm a small-town farm kid. I love having these freedoms," Johnson said. "Please don't take that away from us."

Another resident, Shari Dittmer, said she doesn't understand the city's motive behind including the subdivisions in the annexation.

"When Fargo runs out of land, are you guys going to be out of a job?" Dittmer asked planning commissioners, a comment generating laughter throughout the room.

But Paulsen took on a serious tone when he suggested that this annexation may be critical for Fargo's future.

Fargo Senior Planner Cindy Gray said the city is down to this one-mile corridor because of land lost with last year's annexation agreement with West Fargo. This is key to the city's westward growth, Gray said.

Not just that, but several developers have expressed interest in the open property and therefore need the city services that come with being in the city limits.

Developer interest was a driving force behind initiating the annexation in the first place, said Fargo Planning Director Jim Gilmour.

The official public hearing for affected property owners will be Nov. 24 at the Fargo City Commission meeting.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Jo Almquist at (701) 241-5531

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