The city of Northfield isn't accepting the latest offer from Waterford Township in an ongoing dispute over a 39-year-old annexation agreement.

After a district court judge found the agreement invalid, the city offered the township a $47,000 settlement to drop its appeal. The township countered, stating it didn't need the money, but wanted one clause of the 1980 agreement to stand: the city of Northfield cannot annex Waterford Township without the township’s consent.

The Northfield City Council spent about two hours behind closed doors March 26, debating whether to take the township's counteroffer. The council reached a consensus not to accept it, according to City Administrator Ben Martig.

Martig shared the following statement:

“The City Council met in closed session Tuesday evening for a couple hours. Although no action was taken after the closed session, the consensus of the City Council was not to accept the counter offer proposed by Waterford Township."

"Mayor [Rhonda] Pownell’s previous comments in early March that 'The City Council wants to have good relationships with our neighbors and believes our community will be better served by dedicating more attention to resolving the dispute, than by spending more time and resources in the court system’ holds true again after our meeting last night.

“The City Council is interested in exploring a new long-term orderly annexation agreement. Any agreement or resolution to the pending appeal that may be negotiated would need to come back to the City Council for approval.”

A Dakota County judge ruled in favor of Northfield in December and declared without an annexation the agreement was void. Waterford chose to appeal that decision, then the city offered $47,000 to the township to drop the appeal, citing an effort to "mend and build relationships." Waterford then came back with its own offer, which the city won't accept.

Waterford’s proposal would have ended the court proceedings, but would have meant the city could not annex Waterford Township land without first getting its approval. Generally, according to statute, cities are able to annex a neighboring township by ordinance if the property owners in the annexation area petition to do so. Cities can also annex a township via contested case hearings.

The most common annexation method is through agreement between a city and township; that would be the only option under Waterford’s proposal.

Reach Associate Editor Philip Weyhe at 507-645-1115 or follow him on Twitter @nfnphilweyhe.

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St. Peter Herald, Waseca County News and Le Sueur County News managing editor. Email at Call at 507-931-8567.

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