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Hess among those protesting Tioga annexation plans


Posted 9/01/15 (Tue)

By Kevin Killough
Hess and other landowners are protesting Tioga’s plan to annex sections of land east and west of town, which would include the Hess rail yard and office complex. 
Craig Smith, an attorney for Hess, told the city commission of the company’s intent to protest the annexation at a public hearing held Tuesday last week. 
“We are agreeable to mediation,” Smith told the commission.
The company declined to comment on the reasons for the protests. 
Other residents whose property would be included in the annexed territory also voiced concerns, while some others expressed support for the proposal. 
“We moved where we are to get out of town,” said John Wolla. 
The city would provide services to the residents and businesses in annexed areas. That would require building the infrastructure, which could take some time.
Wolla explained he has paid a deposit to receive R&T water services, which would no longer apply should the city bring its water to his home after annexing the property into the city’s jurisdiction.
Mayor Drake McClelland said residents who paid such deposits would be able to get a refund.
Commissioner John Grubb said the timeline for bringing services out to the annexed properties could not be determined until the city knows what areas are going to be included. And that can’t be determined until the public hearing and mediation process is complete. 
Once the city knows which landowners will need services  they will need to look at funding and other considerations before a firm timeline can be developed.
In previous meetings, commissioners were talking about infrastructure developments happening over the course of one to five years, but Grubb said at the public hearing the city will provide those services. 
“It is in our capital improvement plan to run water out there,” Grubb said. 
Wayne Grindy, a landowner in the western area the city is proposing to annex, said he is in favor of the proposal. 
Other residents were still undecided and brought their concerns to the commissioners.
Matthew Jorstad, who owns a shop in the eastern section just north of the Cenex station, said he is against it. He isn’t certain exactly what benefits, if any, he is getting. 
“Are you guys going to plow snow off the road or do something else? There’s not much in it for me,” Jorstad commented.
He said he would like to get water and sewer to his shop, which would require a tie-in to the mainline at ND 40, but he isn’t sure who would pay for it. 
He said he has heard “horror stories” of people at the end of a line of properties from a water main making expensive infrastructure upgrades, which other residents then tie into, essentially benefitting from the investments of the property owner furthest down the line. 
The commission said such a scenario would not happen but isn’t sure how the water improvements to Jorstad’s property will be funded. 
“There’s a lot of things up in the air right now,” said City Attorney Ben Johnson. 
McClelland assured Jorstad he will make sure whatever happens is fair.
“As long as I sit in this chair, it’s going to be equal for everybody,” McClelland said. 
Olen Hagen, who spoke as a representative of Diamond B Trucking, expressed concern over how city regulations could impact his business if it comes under city jurisdiction. The company hauls crude oil.
“I’m kind of on the fence. I don’t have a whole lot of information,” Hagen said. 
The commission said the ordinances would need to be reviewed to determine how they might affect such a business. 
Ralph Myers, manager of R&R trailer, protested the annexation, saying he wants a full account of how city ordinances will impact his business. He wants to be assured zoning laws will permit the mobile homes at the park and that dog owners with restricted breeds could be grandfathered in. 
The commissioners didn’t believe zoning issues would be a problem, because they wouldn’t be changed from the current county zoning unless residents requested it.
Other residents asked questions about how the annexation might impact tax rates. 
Since those are set by mill levies, which vary annually from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the commission said there is no way at this time to know if residents in the annexed areas would see their taxes go up. 
“We don’t have tax numbers right now,” Johnson said. 
With public comments from the meeting in hand, the city must now pursue the mediation process with landowners who are protesting the annexation. The time that will take is uncertain, but the annexation process cannot move forward until it’s complete.


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