For 10 years, Greg Jedlenski considered his home to be in the country.
His five acres sat north of Brainerd at the end of Dal-Mar Drive in Unorganized Territory, surrounded by wetlands and woods. It was this location -- not too far from the city but not in the city -- that led him to build a home here.
On March 1, Jedlenski became a Brainerd resident. The city annexed 1,000 acres in Unorganized Territory, including the homes along Dal-Mar Drive. It was a move Jedlenski believes Dal-Mar residents should have been left out of.
"I still want to know why they have to annex all of that in," he said. "What's their reasoning? There's no reason for us to be in there."
The 1,000 acres are north of Brainerd city limits, east of Danielson Road extending a half mile east of Beaver Dam Road, and extending north of County Road 49 a quarter mile.
The annexation of land in Unorganized Territory was started in spring of 2000. Baxter and Brainerd were competing for land north of the two cities. At issue were 1,835 acres. Brainerd passed a resolution to annex that tract. Baxter sought 560 acres via the resolution method. Both parcels were in Unorganized Territory. Baxter's resolution was located within Brainerd's resolution.
Many in this portion of Unorganized Territory had petitioned Brainerd over Baxter because, as resident Mark Ryan said, it was, "the lesser of two evils," but given the choice they wanted to stay in Unorganized Territory, and after a settlement between the two cities they withdrew their petitions.
Brainerd and Baxter resolved their contested case in July, drawing a boundary line for future annexation along Danielson Road and Northland Arboretum.
To meet the city's space needs, Brainerd continued with an amended annexation resolution for the 1,000 acres and had its case heard before an administrative law judge. In February the judge ruled in the city's favor.
"Nothing to gain," Jedlenski said about being annexed. "Only higher taxes and more restrictions."
The annexation was, in part, driven by many requests by landowners to be annexed into Brainerd city limits. Instead of annexing 60 acres at a time by ordinance, the city annexed by resolution, a lengthy process the city had hoped to avoid. Of the 1,000 acres annexed, 200 of those are Northland Arboretum land.
Jedlenski said every resident of Dal-Mar Estates had signed a petition against being annexed into the city. Several Dal-Mar and other Unorganized Territory residents gave testimony to the administrative law judge.
"I thought at least they would exclude Dal-Mar," he said, "but they didn't even pay attention to it."
Jedlenski said city services aren't enticing, especially considering most of the wells and septic systems in the Dal-Mar area have been updated in that past couple of years.
Ryan said utility assessments could be overwhelming. His 40 acres include a quarter mile along County Road 49.
Residents of the newly annexed area will keep their sewers for a while. Brainerd City Engineer Jeff Hulsether said a utility master plan is in the works, and extension of utilities would probably be in four to five years, depending on development in the area.
The city also has taken steps to accommodate those residents annexed from rural areas. A rural service agreement has been adopted by the city, meaning taxes wouldn't go up until water and sewer are installed, and a rural zoning district was created for residents until their property is serviced by utilities. Ordinances allowing for animals, hunting and snowmobiling were also adopted.
But being in the city is a raw deal no matter what ordinances are put in place to make it easier for rural residents, Ryan said.
"Eight years ago I bought this property and was tickled pink," to be close to, but not in, Brainerd, Ryan said. "Why should anybody own a nice chunk of land when they can't do anything with it."
"I've never lived in a city and I never want to."
For both Ryan and Jedlenski there is an anger over what they see as a lack of information provided during the annexation process. Ryan described the city's actions as unfair, and Jedlenski said the process seemed sneaky.
"I'm not an angry citizen, but I think they need to look at being more honest. It feels like we've been lied to," Jedlenski said.
Jedlenski may have lost his rural resident status, but his home will never become part of a true city block. His land, like much of the land in the 1,000 acres, is surrounded by wetlands.
And there is one benefit of being annexed into Brainerd Jedlenski plans to make use of to make sure his voice is heard in the future.
"Now we can vote in Brainerd," he said.
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