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N.D. attorney general rules against county in junk cleanup dispute between City of Grand Forks and Grand Forks County

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has issued an opinion clearing up whether Grand Forks County or the City of Grand Forks is responsible for cleaning up a junk-ridden property.

In this case, Stenehjem said the county and not the city has the authority to clean up the property.

The confusion over who has authority to start the cleanup stems from the property’s location.

The property in question lies outside of the city limits but within an area that stretches out four miles from these limits — known as its extraterritorial zone.

As the extraterritorial zone extends from two to four miles outside of the city limits, the city and county can exercise joint jurisdiction, according to state law.

The city and county have an agreement saying the city is responsible for all zoning regulation for the area within two miles of the city.

City police also can exercise authority in a zone spanning up to half a mile outside of its limits.

The property in question lies within the two-mile zoning limit but outside of the half-mile police jurisdiction.

The decision came down to what type of law the city’s junk abatement ordinance is considered to be.

Stenehjem concluded the city’s junk laws are not zoning laws but criminal laws and cannot be enforced outside of that half-mile limit, leaving that responsibility to the county.

“It is my opinion that the city of Grand Forks may not require a resident in the city’s extraterritorial zoning area to clean up accumulated junk, when such accumulation is not prohibited by the city’s zoning ordinances,” he wrote.

In its request for an opinion, the county said the city’s zoning laws could be used for more than dividing land into districts. According to the request, the laws also could be used to regulate land so the city’s junk abatement laws could be enforced as act of zoning even if not explicitly noted in the city code.

 More info: To see the attorney general's opinion, click here.