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Northern township now plans to focus on reassessment process

BEMIDJI - The focus of a public meeting planned for Northern Township residents on Monday likely has changed after discussions this week about annexation.

The meeting, set for 6 p.m. at Northern Town Hall, had been intended to discuss an accelerated annexation plan for those living east of old U.S. Highway 71/Bemidji Avenue North, but that plan will not now happen.

Any changes to the orderly annexation plan need to be approved by all three governments who initially signed the agreement in 2004: the city of Bemidji, Bemidji Township and Northern Township.

While the city and Northern Township have both agreed to the accelerated annexation plan that would have brought select Northern Township residents into city limits, Bemidji Township would not approve the change.

"I'll put it in simple terms: Bemidji Township says no," said John Steffenhagen, Bemidji Township's attorney with Hellmuth & Johnson, in a joint meeting held Tuesday.

The focus of Northern Township's public meeting now will focus on the reassessment process for parcels involved in the Birchmont Drive dispute.

Had accelerated annexation been approved, the city would have taken over the reassessment process. Since that did not happen, the responsibility again will fall to Northern Township.

"If there is no accelerated annexation, then the township remains responsible for any reassessment," John Chattin, Bemidji city manager, said Wednesday.

No additional joint meetings are planned at this time, Chattin said. Bemidji Township said it would consider meeting again sometime this fall.

Chattin said he was both "surprised and disappointed" by Bemidji Township's position on the proposed accelerated annexation plan.

"What Northern Township had proposed had no impact whatsoever on Bemidji Township," he said.