West Fargo will no longer consider annexation of Red River Valley Fairgrounds, Bonanzaville
The commission voted 3-2 to stop staff direction of exploring annexation process at its Monday, March 15 meeting. Mayor Bernie Dardis and Commissioners Mandy George and Mark Simmons approved of the motion to stop considering annexation made by George.
WEST FARGO — City staff will no long study the process of annexing about 400 acres on the western side of West Fargo that includes the Red River Valley Fairgrounds, Bonanzaville and Cass County buildings.
The commission voted 3-2 to stop staff direction of exploring annexation process at its Monday, March 15, meeting. Mayor Bernie Dardis and commissioners Mandy George and Mark Simmons approved of the motion to stop considering annexation made by George.
The move came after Commissioner Eric Gjerdevig made his second request for staff to research annexing the properties on March 1. Gjerdevig said since those properties are not part of the city, they have never been asked to pay special assessments. Although they are not part of the city, Bonanzaville and the Red River Valley Fairgrounds pay for the use of city water and sewer. The nonprofits would not be eligible to be charged property taxes, even if annexed.
Monday, City Administrator Tina Fisk updated the commission with plans to research the process and present the commissioners with staff findings in May.
But George said after supporting annexation initially, she changed her mind after talking to residents and RRVF Executive Director Cody Cashman.
Cashman said last week he was concerned that annexation into the city could harm the annual events held at the fairgrounds from the fair itself, which incorporates livestock and education and events such as concerts and the Big Iron Farm Show.
"Personally I'm now a hard no," George said. "That's where I am at on this annexation, and I personally don't know if we should direct staff to spend that much time on something the commission will not move forward."
Simmons said he feared that since the fairgrounds does not want to be annexed, a move by the city to annex in the nonprofit would be publicly perceived as an eminent domain process.
Commissioner Brad Olson said he supported learning more about annexation.
"We're not actually moving forward with any kind of formal plans for annexation; we're just exploring the pros and cons of doing it," he said Monday. "We're just exploring what the possibilities are and what the repercussions are both ways."
"I don't want to waste time if we are not going to pursue this," George said.
Gjerdevig stressed that he supported annexation because he feels west-side businesses have had to paid higher special assessments because those areas are not included in special assessment districts.
Before Gjerdevig made his first request to consider annexation in 2018, the city and fairgrounds had come to an agreement for annexation in anticipation of working together to build a convention center on the grounds.
West Fargo commissioners tabled the annexation agreement and later agreed along with the Red River Valley Fair Board and the Fargo West Fargo Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau to each pitch in about $22,000 for consultants Stone Planning, based in Chicago, to look at the feasibility of building a convention center.
City staff said Stone Planning’s study found the convention center was a viable idea but additional funding would be needed, and the city has not returned to the issue since.