By Tim Leeds
The Havre City Council heard comments Tuesday night about its plans to annex four sections of land into the city in a public hearing before its regular meeting.
Ron Baston, director of public works, described the sections the city plans to annex. Areas east and south of the high school are two of the sections planned for annexation, which is connected in part to the planned urban highway and water main loop which would run through the area.
The other areas are south and west of the hospital on the current border of the city. Baston said the annexation is also to prepare for urban development which is likely to occur in the areas and to bring existing development into the city limits.
Several land owners protested and asked questions about the proposed annexation. Greg Bailey, who farms part of the Bailey estate which would be annexed, said the income off of the property isn't always able to pay current taxes, and if taxes are raised when it becomes part of the city, he wouldn't be able to keep the property.
Bailey and Les and Karen Bender, who have agricultural operations in the area which would be annexed, asked how bringing the land into the city limits will affect their businesses. Baston said that the land is already zoned by the county as residential areas, and their current agricultural operations are by special allowances right now. Baston said that when annexation occurs, existing operations are generally allowed to continue, and only subsequent use would have to be residential.
Baston used the former location of Bergren Transmission in Highland Park as an example. He said once the area was annexed, the business was allowed to continue operation. After the business moved to a new location, he said, and the operation at the Highland Park location stopped, new use of the area had to follow residential zoning rules.
Mayor Phyllis Leonard said existing operations in annexed areas are generally grandfathered in and allowed to continue operation.
Baston said one goal is to set up city limits ahead of time. He said the situation now allows people to build properties without paying the city fees, such as building permits, then coming into the city later to receive full services. He said the city should always be ahead of building, instead of building into the county and then bringing it into the city.
Baston said state law currently allows annexation of anyone using any city services, such as water or sewage. He said people inside the area of a section for special improvement, such as street or curb improvement, have to vote to receive special improvements. At least 51 percent of the people affected have to approve the improvements, which will then be paid by all property owners affected.
In action during the regular meeting, the council approved the resignation of Shelley Nolan, the superintendent of the Havre water plant, effective June 1.
Nolan said in an interview that she feels the construction planned for the plant will take too much time from her family. She said she is doing some consulting work for South Hills Environmental Management out of Helena, which is contracted to do work for the Department of Environmental Quality. She said she plans to balance her time between this work and her family.
In her resignation letter, Nolan said the city will end up with a quality, state of the art facility, and that it has hired enough help to maintain service until a new superintendent can be hired to fill the staff.
The council approved a resolution providing for the creation of a board known as the Havre Historic Preservation Committee and providing for the appointment and qualification of its members and providing for the duties and responsibilities of the board.
Emily Mayer-Lossing said the board would require no funding from the city to perform, but that application for funding must be submitted before July 1. She said a revised budget will be submitted to the mayor for approval once an amended budget is prepared by the newly created board.