Mark Ryan is waiting for the outcome of a future he has no control over.
With 40 acres on Wise Road, Ryan is one of several property owners caught in the middle of Brainerd's and Baxter's annexation dispute.
Ryan is waiting to see if Brainerd and Baxter officials come to a compromise in their annexation boundary meetings. He is waiting to see what Minnesota Planning staffers will do if the boundary decision falls to them. He is waiting to see if he will be forced into a situation he doesn't want.
Like many of his fellow Unorganized Territory residents, Ryan would rather not go to either city if such a choice were his to make.
"I want to remain in Unorganized Territory. That's why I bought here," Ryan said. "What's the sense of having a good chunk of land if we can't do anything with it?"
Brainerd and Baxter both want to annex land in Unorganized Territory -- Brainerd 1,835 acres and Baxter 560 acres. Both cities have sent the resolutions to the state to annex this land
Rick Olson also owns property in Unorganized Territory. His residence is on Whispering Woods Lane, behind the former Deerland. He has lived in what is now Unorganized Territory his entire life, and he too would prefer not to be in either city.
"I really, strongly want to stay Unorganized," Olson said. "I just want to be left alone. I have lived here my whole life and I like being out of the city limits."
Olson has other concerns when it comes to annexation. His property borders a large pond with many other properties and the city of Baxter. He said Baxter is draining a storm sewer into the pond, and he worries about the health concerns if Menards builds on the Deerland site.
"(It's) a real concern for me because treated lumber contains arsenic," Olson said. "I'm going to really be affected by it."
Both Olson and Ryan like being unincorporated because they said it gives them freedom that isn't available within a city, such as hunting, no city taxes and not having to license animals.
But if they have to choose between either Brainerd or Baxter, both like what Brainerd has to offer them and the way the city has treated them. Ryan was upset with what he perceived as Baxter's aggressive annexation.
"It was absolutely crazy for Baxter to run wild and annex all these people without telling them," he said. "That's why my neighbors signed a deal to go into Brainerd. Everything they said they would do, they've done."
Some people want nothing to do with either city, even if the only choices were Brainerd or Baxter. Fred Boiko, who runs a tree nursery and lives on Highway 371 North, has not been asked by either city if he would like to petition for annexation, and he said he wouldn't sign if he was asked.
"I always say leave well enough alone," said Boiko concerning his and other residents desire to stay in Unorganized Territory. "Who is really benefiting out of this? Will your property values go up? I don't think so, but your taxes will."
Baxter and Brainerd have until July 14 to try to work out an annexation boundary compromise. If the cities don't, Minnesota Planning or an outside arbitrator will decide the fate of Unorganized Territory in contested case hearings.
There are many options that could be considered for this unincorporated area. Based on 14 factors that decide which entity could best provide services, an arbitrator could decide Brainerd would get all, or Baxter would get all, or both cities could get part of the contested area or none. There is no way to know where boundaries may be drawn.
It's these possibilities that have residents in this area concerned over their future.
"We just don't like people coming in and telling us what to do," Olson said.
At the very least, Ryan hopes both cities remain up front with residents.
"Everything that happens, they should inform us, they should let us know," Ryan said. "This is going to change our lives greatly. It's going to affect everyone, and they can't act like it's just a signature on a piece of paper."
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