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Annexation in Falconer Township, triggered by Fufeng Group, could kick off next month

City leaders had initially set a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting to discuss Fufeng Group’s arrival for March 16.

Grand Forks City Hall
Grand Forks City Hall

GRAND FORKS — City leaders have pushed back plans to annex a major corn-milling plant’s future site — along with a swath of neighboring businesses — while local property owners hear more about what it could mean for their pocketbooks.

The shift comes as Fufeng Group, a China-based agribusiness, plans to open a Grand Forks plant on the city’s northern edge. City leaders say it’s a huge boon for local business, bringing hundreds of new jobs. But it’s earned significant pushback from local residents, especially those nearby, who would bear the brunt of any boost in traffic or bad odor.

More on Fufeng Group
More than a year after it was first announced, the council on Monday voted 5-0 to move away from the Fufeng project. Council members Kyle Kvamme and Tricia Lunski did not attend the meeting.

But it’s the tax impact that has worried many nearby business owners. City plans to annex the future Fufeng Group site would likely also annex a group of nearby businesses on Highway 81 north of Gateway Drive. For those businesses, city property taxes will likely be higher than their current property taxes in Falconer Township. They could also face special assessment costs as the city improves roads and water utilities in the area.

“One of the things that was requested by both (the) Planning Commission — and more than a few folks — is, before we did the annexation, they wanted us to have meetings and get information to those folks who were proposed to be annexed,” City Planner Ryan Brooks said, “(to explain) what their new costs would be to them – whether it be special assessments, taxes, everything.”

City leaders had initially set a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting to discuss Fufeng Group’s arrival for March 16. But Brooks said it soon became apparent those meetings with local property owners wouldn’t be finished in time. As a result, Planning and Zoning leaders are expected to discuss the Fufeng Group facility’s arrival at its next regular meeting, on April 6.

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RELATED: Residents concerned about Fufeng plant, but city leaders say it's an important project for local development

Brooks said there are about 60 property parcels — belonging to about 30 different businesses — that would be affected by annexation plans. But he added that special assessments related to the project could cover an additional 20 parcels of property.

Frank Matejcek, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission who hails from Falconer Township, said he’s glad to see the shift in schedule.

“Whether it was this project or anything in the south end of town or whatever, I’ve always wanted citizens to be notified, so they have the right to protest if they want to,” he said.

City Administrator Todd Feland said the delay gave Fufeng Group more time to prepare as well.

“Fufeng was not ready with all the particular documents to meet that (March 16) meeting notice,” Feland said. “It also allowed us more time to reach out and meet with property owners in advance of that meeting, also.”

Related Topics: FUFENG
Sam Easter is a freelance reporter who has been a regular contributor to the Herald since 2019. He covers a variety of topics, including government and politics.

In 2015, he joined the Herald’s staff as City Hall reporter, covering North Dakota politics at all levels and conducting Herald investigations through early 2018, when he began his freelancing career.

Easter can be reached at samkweaster@gmail.com or via Twitter via @samkweaster.
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