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ND zoning law changes sought

MINOT, N.D. - Scott Johannsen wants more of a say in decisions that affect him in Minot. Because he lives in an area under Minot's two-mile extra-territorial jurisdiction, Johannsen has no alderman to represent him. "You can't vote for them, and ...

MINOT, N.D. - Scott Johannsen wants more of a say in decisions that affect him in Minot.

Because he lives in an area under Minot's two-mile extra-territorial jurisdiction, Johannsen has no alderman to represent him.

"You can't vote for them, and yet they can make decisions for you. It doesn't make me feel good," he said.

The Ridgedale Acres subdivision is just outside city limits, and residents there are troubled by the city's approval of a nearby energy park.

"They can say how we have to live, yet we have no say in who has that say," said Dave Parks, a Ridgedale Acres resident. "Our hands are tied. We have no recourse, not being citizens of the city of Minot."

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Extraterritorial zoning has been an issue for many of the state's biggest cities. Disputes over Extraterritorial zoning in Fargo and West Fargo have been centered on the city's developing south edge. And the issue also arose in Grand Forks, when a group of county residents said the city should not force a landfill on them, even though it had zoning authority.

North Dakota's extra-territorial zoning law dates back to 1975. Legislators are considering whether to change it.

The Legislature allowed for extra-territorial zoning that ranged from a half-mile to two miles, depending on the size of the city. It was meant to give cities the ability to control street design, water systems and other infrastructure development to provide conformity and fire protection as the cities grew through annexation.

In 1997, the Legislature expanded the extra-territorial distance to up to four miles.

Opponents say the law takes away rural residents' property rights by allowing city officials they don't elect to enact city-style zoning requirements. So some landowners and legislators want to abolish a law that gives cities zoning control in a ring around their borders.

But eliminating extraterritorial zoning entirely would be problematic, said West Fargo Planning Director Larry Weil, who is watching the issue closely.

Before 1975, when the zoning was created, "there are some horror stories that any community of any size can point to," he said.

Failing septic systems can be a problem for some rural developments.

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"Some of that could have been prevented if there'd been some planning that was done in advance," Weil said.

For Fargo, the extraterritorial powers are about the future. The land south of Fargo, where the city's ET zone can stretch out as much as 6 miles from the main city limits, is one of the only places the city can grow. It's hemmed in by the river on the east, West Fargo and Horace on the west, and to some extent the airport and lagoons on the north.

Minot exercises jurisdiction over two miles. Mayor Curt Zimbelman said it is important for the city's orderly growth. He said rural residents have a voice through three county-appointed members on Minot's 13-member planning commission, which makes recommendations to the City Council.

A legislative committee has approved a bill draft that gives joint jurisdiction in extraterritorial areas to cities and townships, or counties if townships have no zoning authority. If the government entities cannot agree, disputes would go to an administrative law judge, under the proposal.

The North Dakota League of Cities fears that would slow development, said Jerry Hjelmstad, the group's attorney. The league offered a compromise that called for joint jurisdiction in the first half of the extra-territorial zone.

Copyright © 2008 The Forum. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.

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