Case Study: The Annexation of Becker Township

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At times, Baldwin Township’s relationship with its neighbor, the city of Princeton, has been contentious. And talk of orderly annexation–the melding of the two communities–has been met with enthusiasm, outrage, and deep shrugs.

Former town board member Elly Rittenour argued in favor of annexation in a blog post here last week. “Mainly, I feel annexation will provide more and better services, provided and administrated by professionals,” she wrote.

The combining of two communities is a momentous process that can take decades, even after an annexation agreement has been reached. Generally, the terms are up for negotiation, so each situation is unique.

Becker Township and Becker city, both in Sherburne County, agreed to orderly annexation in 2007. Says Kelli Neu, Becker’s Assistant City Administrator and Community Development Director, the arrangement affords the township significant control over planning decisions. The joint planning board is stacked three to two in favor of the township. “This is something unique,” she says. “We really put a lot of power in the township’s hands.”

In addition, says Neu, the city has agreed that it won’t annex property unless the landowner or the state makes a request, or the city already owns the land. Perhaps most appealing to township residents, the agreement includes a two-tiered tax system: Those who receive city services like sewer and water pay more than those who don’t.

The city benefits too. Becker is paid on a contractual basis for township planning services. The city also gets to have a hand in designing surrounding properties, including those that aren’t presently part of the city but likely will be in the future.

“We have a community where our Becker residents are just that,” says Neu. “They don’t know if they live in the city or the township.” She says perhaps the greatest benefit of the annexation and planning agreement is bringing township decisions home, rather than leaving them up to Sherburne County, where township residents sometimes didn’t feel heard.

“We wanted our Becker residents to make the decisions for Becker,” Neu says, “rather than having them made down in Elk River at the county. We wanted to bring it local.”

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