An area south of Valley City, including Woodland Park and several surrounding businesses, was recently annexed into city limits.
A court decision handed down last week will allow the City of Valley City to annex property north of 35th Street SE between the Kathryn Road and the Sheyenne River and south of I-94 into city limits.
Administrative Law Judge Allen C. Hoberg ordered the annexation back in March, but the order was appealed by business owners in the affected area. Ryan Trzpuc and Michelle Brendmoen, owners of the Ram Bar, petitioned to overturn the administrative court's decision on the grounds that the judge's ruling was "irregular" and "exceeded his jurisdiction", according to court documents.
District Court Judge John T. Paulson heard Trzpuc and Brendmoen's appeal, but found that the administrative judge did not exceed his authority. Paulson's Dec. 19 memorandum opinion will allow the city to proceed with annexation.
"We stand by the arguments we made, we don't agree with the decision," said Fargo Attorney Sean T. Foss, who is representing the Ram's owners.
"The main issue is the issue that everybody out there has: they feel that they have a rural property and they don't want to be part of the city, and don't think the city had enough reason to annex."
The annexation attempt dates back to November 2009, when the Valley City City Commission voted to annex area 1702 and six other sections of property outside of city limits.
"A majority of property owners did oppose annexation in (area 1702)," said City Attorney Russell J. Myhre, adding that objections to annexation are common because of the improvement fees, special assessments and city tax rates that come with living inside city boundaries.
In the case of the Ram, the owners' main objection was that being inside city limits would require them to close at 1 a.m., in accordance with city ordinance. They argued that patrons who frequent the bar specifically for its 2 a.m. closing time would be put off by a change in regulations.
After Judge Paulsen's order is signed, the Ram's owners will have 60 days to appeal the ruling. The final venue for their appeal would be the North Dakota Supreme Court.
"That would be the next step from a legal standpoint, to appeal to the state Supreme Court, and ultimately that is for the clients to decide," said Foss.
"The last thing that any business needs before their busy holiday season is to be told 'now you can only be open until 1 o'clock'," said Myhre, "but (the Ram) is grandfathered in with its current liquor license until December 31, so they can stay open until 2 o'clock on New Year's Eve."
After the Ram applies for their liquor license renewal on the 31st, they will have to request approval of a later closing time from the City Commission. Otherwise, they are stuck with a 1 a.m. closing time beginning in 2012.