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City leaders respond to first week of North Dakota Legislature

Grand Forks City Hall (Grand Forks Herald Photo by Sam Easter)

Several cities in North Dakota, including Grand Forks, will be watching several bills in the state Legislature as the proposed legislation head the Senate and House floors.

Grand Forks leaders joined staff from several other North Dakota cities Friday afternoon to discuss the first week of the 2019 legislative assembly. Members from the League of North Dakota Cities, which led the statewide conference call, warned cities a large number of bills have been introduced in the last 72 hours, and the League predicted more will surface in the coming weeks.

One of the most discussed pieces of proposed legislation was House Bill 1066, otherwise dubbed the "Prairie Dog Bill." It proposes funding infrastructure in eastern North Dakota cities. Grand Forks will send several officials to the bill's hearing Tuesday.

"You should be very interested in this bill," Executive Director of the League Blake Crosby told cities Friday. "It's very important that we fill the room on Tuesday. This is one of the bills where being present is very important."

Legislators have predicted Grand Forks will receive approximately $12 million and Grand Forks County approximately $5 million from this measure, according to a formula lawmakers developed. Lawmakers have said the bill will provide appropriations from gas and oil tax revenue every year for qualifying cities, counties and airport authorities.

The cities also reviewed a bill from Rep. Steve Vetter, R-Grand Forks, that relates to nonconforming structures and bank mortgages.

When a city changes its zoning, houses in an area that don't match the new zoning will become "grandfathered in," according to the bill. When one of these properties is over 50 percent destroyed, Grand Forks and other city ordinances prohibit property owners from rebuilding it as it was, according to Vetter.

If a home can't be rebuilt, a bank might refuse to finance it out of a fear a homeowner won't pay it back, Vetter said.

Vetter's bill would allow property owners in this situation to rebuild their residential property, on the conditions they don't rebuild a structure larger than previous specifications and they obtain a building permit to do so within 6 months of damage.

The bill also states local zoning authorities have the right to regulate reconstruction in flood plain areas to maintain the city's eligibility in a national flood insurance program.

Emily Allen

Allen joined the Grand Forks Herald to cover local government and politics May 2018. Call her at 701-780-1102, email her at eallen@gfherald.com or follow her on Twitter, @Emily_theHerald.

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