City decides no input needed

Council dismisses talk of change to extra-territorial permit fees

This city map shows in lighter color the extra-territorial zone surrounding the darker colored boundaries of the city of Minot. Submitted Photo

Doubled fees for building permits in Minot’s extra-territorial area will remain in place, the Minot City Council has decided.

Patti Eisenzimmer of rural Minot, who had requested last month that the council reconsider the fees, said she is dissatisfied with the way the city handled the matter. The council brought up the fees during discussions at its retreat in Washburn Oct. 25, at which time members determined not to take any action.

Eisenzimmer said she was not notified of pending discussion nor was she or the public given an opportunity to present information.

“How are we supposed to address them when they have meetings we can’t attend? We can’t tell them our concerns. We can’t make suggestions,” Eisenzimmer said. “I think it was handled incorrectly.”

As a resident of the city’s two-mile extraterritorial zone, she and other non-city residents don’t have an avenue to address the council except in a public forum, she said.

Eisenzimmer released the following Nov. 9 response from City Manager Tom Barry regarding her request for reconsideration of the fees: “The City Council discussed this practice and decided not to change it. Again, the surcharge is meant to recover the added costs of staff time and resources used to perform the duties outside of our corporate city limits and to discourage sprawl which adds to the costs of developing municipal infrastructure in and around rural subdivisions. Currently, nearly half of the costs of our Planning, Building and Inspection Departments are subsidized by property taxes – a cost that those receiving our services outside our city limits don’t pay. Thus, the surcharge also helps to offset the costs of resident taxpayer funding of the Planning, Building and Inspection Departments for services provided beyond our taxing boundaries. Thank you nonetheless for bringing this issue to the Council’s attention and allowing the City to reevaluate it.”

Eisenzimmer said it is unusual for other cities in the state to charge residents who live around a city’s edges twice as much for a building permit as a city resident would pay.

Extra-territorial residents do pay for planning and building and inspection operations through their taxes, she added. However, those taxes go to the county, not the city. Extra-territorial residents cannot use the county building and inspection services nor obtain county building permits even if they wished to do so, she said. They are required to use city services and pay double fees set by a government entity that is giving them no voice, she said.

Mayor Shaun Sipma said the rationale for establishing the higher fees years ago remains valid. He said there has been conversation about having the county handle permits in city extra-territorial zones under the zoning rules set by cities. With multiple cities in the county to address, a good deal of work would need to go into developing that type of arrangement to make it feasible, he said.

Additionally, the council has heard only from Eisenzimmer at this point, Sipma said. The council could decide to revive the matter if there is significant interest beyond that of one resident, he said.

Eisenzimmer said she’s disappointed the council closed discussion without giving people a chance to show they are interested, but she hopes residents will speak out to let the council know they want building fees reconsidered.

“If people really care and feel this is not justifiable, then contact the city. They need to speak up and voice their opinion,” she said.

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