Should the city regulate how much dirt landowners sell?

Sue Kraft, Lifestyles Editor

Should landowners within two miles of city limits have the right to sell an unlimited amount of dirt to construction companies or should the city regulate it, to ensure the land is usable when they are finished?

With numerous construction projects coming up in the Lake Region, the Devils Lake City Commission is pondering that very question.

At their meeting last night, commissioners discussed the current policy, which will not allow excavation below the elevation of 1460, and agreed to keep it in place for Phase 1 of the embankment project.

The issue will be revisited when it comes time for Phases 2 and 3.

“This is an issue that will probably come up again,” noted Mayor Fred Bott.

City Engineer Mike Grafsgaard said the big question is, when the construction companies are finished is the land buildable or not buildable?

“If it's under 1460 I can't give them a permit to build,” said City Assessor Gary Martinson.

Commissioner Craig Stromme said he understands the dilemma, but feels the landowner should have the final say.

“Why are we penalizing the land owner?” he questioned. “There are going to be some people who are selling dirt and have no plans for the land. I don't want the city to stop them from making money.”

Martinson said the policy also keeps construction companies in check, noting that in the past companies have purchased land for a nominal fee and then excavated $100,000 worth of dirt from it.

“It's hard to step on the landowners' rights, but sometimes the land owner is the contractor,” he said.

The current policy would also prevent substantial damage to the landscape.

Commissioner Tim Heisler said that land south of town has hills with large craters in it and other unsightly remnants — and he does not want that to happen on the outskirts of Devils Lake.

“Let's try to avoid that,” Heisler said.

Other business

• Jeanne O'Gorman and several students were on hand to witness the Mayor sign a proclamation declaring February “Career and Technical Education Month.”

• Commissioners discussed a recycling agreement with Lake Region Corporation, where it states if the Consumer Price Index increases, the amount the city pays LRC will increase, but if it decreases, the amount will stay the same.

They decided to discuss the issue again at the next meeting and possibly approve the contract, with that paragraph removed or amended.

• The commissioners agreed to forgive $22.55 on the January bill for Devils Lake resident Dean Welch, who experienced a waterline break inside his house. The city will pay the sewer portion of the bill only.

• Three city employees, Jesse Bachmeier, Del Nordum and Jeff Trana, will be traveling to Tomahawk, Wis., for heavy equipment training. The city agreed to pay for their transportation to Grand Forks on March 3.

• Two public hearings were held for conditional use permits, one for resident Paul Gutschmidt, who would like to add four storage garages to his site on Hwy. 2 East, and one from Altru Clinic-Lake Region, for a temporary structure on the north side of the building.

There was no public comment for either item, both were approved.

• Terry Johnston asked the commissioners for permission to apply for a $30,000 grant, which will be used to update the heating system at the sanitation department. It was approved, with the city's share totaling $3,000. A request was also made on behalf of Terry Wallace, who wasn't in attendance, to submit an application for a similar grant. It was unclear, however, how much money the city would be responsible for. They approved the request, pending the projected cost to the city.

• Grafsgaard said an individual is interested in leasing land near the Tolna Coulee. The person leases the adjacent land and would like the extra space for his cattle. The commissioners denied the request, noting that they are still unsure what the land will be used for and if they decided to lease the land, it would have to be by bid and open to all interested parties.

• The commission approved several payments: Bergstrom Electric for work at the water treatment plant, Park Construction for work at Tolna Coulee and Custom Aire for work at water treatment plant.

• Game of chance permits were acknowledged, a loan agreement with the N.D. State Revolving Fund Program was approved and two outstanding checks were cancelled.