BISMARCK, N.D. - The Morton County Commission decided at a special meeting Friday to send a letter of protest to the city of Mandan about the city’s annexation plan.
The vote was unanimous.
The Mandan City Commission has proposed annexing 1,000 acres north of Mandan Middle School and mostly west of N.D. Highway 1806.
"We've had a considerable amount of public contact and comment on this issue," commission Chairman Bruce Strinden said.
Residents in the proposed annexed area have until 4:30 p.m. Monday to submit a letter of protest to the city. It takes a protest from owners of 25 percent of the total land to kill the plan or force mediation.
According to Mandan City Administrator Jim Neubauer, letters of protest have been received from those owning 29.67 percent of the land as of Friday.
The county owns three rights-of-way in the area and so, as a landowner, the commission decided to send a letter of protest to add to the percentage.
"We were expecting it was going to be very close," Neubauer said of the percentage of protest.
Now, the city commission will have to either drop the proposal or move into mediation.
Many of the residents are concerned about costs — having to pay for city services like water, sewage and roads that many of them have already established on their own.
Neubauer acknowledged that property taxes for the residents could go up. However, he said, they would likely get that money back in savings on utilities.
Of the proposed annexed land, a small strip east of Highway 1806 caused particular controversy.
According to Commissioner Cody Schulz, there was "a general feeling of unfairness" since the land south of that area would not be annexed, including the Tesoro Refinery.
Mandan proposed a similar annexation, although with less land, in 2007. The process went to mediation, although no agreement was reached.
The city went to an administrative judge, but the judge ruled there wasn't enough development in the area yet and said the city should wait.
This time around, should mediation fail, Neubauer said he thought the city would have a much better chance with an administrative judge.
Many of the developers who have bought land in the area have requested city services, he said.
County Commissioner Andy Zachmeier, who proposed the motion for the county to send the letter of protest, said he thought going to mediation would allow resident interests to be represented.
The Mandan City Commission has its next regular meeting July 16.