Grand Forks mayor says some have benefited without annexation

In a statement sent to the Herald in advance of the next scheduled City Council meeting, Bochenski reaffirms his belief that annexation should move forward for properties along Highway 81

Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – Mayor Brandon Bochenski says some property owners in Falconer Township have been receiving a “large discount on their tax burden for decades,” which he says has added to the taxes paid by Grand Forks residents.

In a statement sent to the Herald in advance of the next scheduled City Council meeting and also in a follow-up interview, Bochenski reaffirmed his belief that annexation should move forward for properties along Highway 81, just north of Grand Forks. It’s a process that was undertaken by the City Council last year, but one that likely will be reconsidered at the Monday, April 3, council meeting.

“Upon further reviewing property tax information, it has become clear and understandable why there are property owners along the Hwy. 81 corridor that don’t want to be within Grand Forks city limits,” Bochenski wrote in the statement, which the Herald published as a Viewpoint in the opinion section . “The data shows they have been receiving a large discount on their tax burden for decades and have received many of the same benefits as everyone else without contributing to the tax base and paying their fair share.”

The city decided to annex land along Highway 81 last June in conjunction with the Fufeng wet corn mill project, which sought to build a factory on 300-plus acres along the city’s northern edge. But when the Department of the U.S. Air Force in January declared Fufeng a national security threat, City Council members voted to stop the project.

A number of residents have voiced their opposition to being annexed into the city. A petition for de-annexation is being reviewed by the city, leading to next week’s council discussion. Not every property owner wants out of the annexation, however. During a March 13 Committee of the Whole meeting , City Planner Ryan Brooks said six property owners – Brooks called them “parcels” – did not sign the de-annexation petition.


Bochenski provided the statement to the Herald on Monday. In a follow-up interview, he said he wants the annexation, which has already been approved by council members, to move forward.

“It’s my opinion that it should have been done 30 years ago,” he said. “I don’t think there was political will back then. You have got a lot of the same people that are still involved in it. I think (the city) cut them a break and they talked about looking at it again 10 years later and here we are 30 years later. I don’t know the exact reason, but I don’t think there was enough will on the council at that time to get it done.”

Also included in the packet provided to the Herald from Bochenski were documents that show properties in the township are valued at only 61% of their true and full value, according to city assessors.

For example, one property on the sheet has a true and full 2022 value of $732,800, according to a county assessment. City Assessor Tami Lazur said the 2023 value the city will put on the property will be $1,528,000, according to the city data. It shows, according to Lazur, that the property has been valued at 47.96% of its true value. The final row of the city worksheet shows the property has been paying 33.33% of what the city considers a rightful tax.

There are 29 improved properties included in the worksheet compiled by the city. Also listed in the worksheet are 30 vacant land properties.

Bochenski said the data isn’t his opinion, but is “data of the assessors.”

“They’re using their system based on comparable sales. This isn’t my value. It’s done by the assessing team,” he said.

Bochenski said the data will be included in information presented to the City Council on Monday.


Falconer Township resident Frank Matejcek, who also serves on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, said it’s a “given” that property values are lower when those properties aren’t in the city.

“The property values when out of the city are always less than they would be in the city,” he said.

The values of properties in Falconer Township are set by the township’s assessor, he said.

“One thing (the city) has never done is they have never given those people the full amount of what the (special assessments) are going to be and what their appraisals are going to be,” he said. “So they’re kind of fighting something they don’t know how high it’s going to get or what it’s going to be. They’ve shown them a couple different times, but it's always been different.”

Craig Spicer, a Falconer Township property owner, said Bochesnki is being “vindictive and wants to retaliate against the north end businesses …” following the Fufeng project. Spicer said 20 businesses have petitioned to be de-annexed.

“We don’t need any of the services. We never have needed any of the services that Grand Forks has offered. We don’t have those benefits – that’s why our tax base is lower,” Spicer said.

In the statement, Bochenski says property owners in Falconer Township have received “many of the same benefits as everyone else without contributing to the tax base and paying their fair share.”

According to Bochenski's statement, some of those benefits include “direct access to workforce, services and customers, as well as direct usage of city roads which take a beating and are paid for by city revenues." He continued: “Since then you can also include 20 years of flood protection provided to this area, (for) which they have paid nothing, while city residents have been carrying the flood protection specials and flood protection utility maintenance fees, along with road plowing and maintenance for this area.”


Responded Spicer: “Most of this stuff is what the city is pushing on us that we never wanted in the first place. Typically, when you want to be annexed you want services from the city. You want roads from the city, you want water from the city. Why should we have to be doubled up and pay twice for services that we have covered from years ago that many businesses were forced out of the city because the city didn’t want them back then and they made them move out of town?”

In 1993-94, the city also discussed annexation of properties in Falconer Township. Among documents the city provided to the Herald on Monday was “An Analysis of North Highway 81,” as well as a letter from property owners to the city, in which the affected property owners voiced opposition to the proposed annexation.

The issue at the time, according to the letter from the property owners, was what they described as a “leap frog” annexation process.

“It is our feeling that the entire unannexed area from 42nd Street east down 27th Avenue North and north along 32nd Street to the Eide and Knoff property and to continue south down North Columbia Road be considered for annexation. The entire area will benefit and should share the associated costs,” the property owners wrote. “To annex only developed properties along a narrow band is a ‘leap frog’ annexation and assesses a disproportionate share of special assessments on a small number of properties.”

The letter outlined 10 reasons the property owners were, at that time, against annexation, including:

● The city was not following the annexation point rating system adopted in 1980.

● Revenue generated by the city wouldn’t warrant the investment by the city.

● Assessments to property owners would place an unfair burden on only 30 property owners involved in the area.


● Costs of installed amenities would exceed city estimates due to high ground water levels.

● There were no known owners in favor of the annexation.

● There had been no recent building on the land in years leading up to the proposal.

● The probability that “one or more vacant lots will default to the city.”

● The city already had two industrial parks.

● All costs of the project hadn’t been considered.

● The area in question at the time employed more than 400 people, and the majority of owners lived in the city and paid taxes for city services.

In the January 1994 letter, the property owners said they were not against annexation or city growth, but asked for a delay on the process.


“We request that you delay the annexation for another 10 years or until the area is more fully developed so that you are able to spread the special assessments over 100 or more lots and not the 30 businesses currently shown,” the property owners wrote. “When that point is reached we will gladly cooperate to make this an orderly transition. Until that time, we ask that you use good business sense and judgment and table this motion.”

Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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