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Bemidji Township files new annexation lawsuit

BEMIDJI -- The story of the single annexation lawsuit between Bemidji Township and the city of Bemidji has become a story of lawsuits, plural.

The township filed a new complaint April 11 that named the city, Northern Township and the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board as defendants. Whereas the original lawsuit was based on claims for alleged improper annexation of property the city was supposed to have committed before a May 31, 2013 ,settlement agreement, the new lawsuit is based in part on alleged wrongful actions the city committed after the agreement, combined with alleged wrongful actions on the part of Northern Township and the JPB.

The JPB was not a defendant in the former lawsuit, but the new lawsuit alleges that they actively participated in the old lawsuit although they were supposed be "established solely to facilitate neutral regional planning."

A scheduling meeting on the new lawsuit is scheduled for June.

The old lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Paul T. Benshoof last month, but the township filed an appeal last week to the state appellate court.

Minneapolis-based attorney Jim Thomson, who will defend the city in both lawsuits, expressed disappointment at the appeal and said it could take anywhere from nine months to a year to resolve. The annexation lawsuit was first filed in the summer of 2012.

"We were hoping the matter was behind us," he said Monday.

Edina-based attorney John Steffenhagen, Bemidji Township's representation, did not return phone calls Monday.

A hearing on the old lawsuit is scheduled for next Wednesday at 3:30. p.m. in the Ninth District Court.