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Heidi Shaffer, Published June 07 2011

Oxbow residents want 80 percent tax break

OXBOW, N.D. – Residents facing possible future buyouts here as a result of a Red River diversion want Cass County to give the city an 80 percent property tax break.

Frank Pearson, a 22-year resident and former mayor of Oxbow, told the Cass County Commission on Monday that homes in his community have no value and should get an 80 percent reduction in taxable value.

“We’re not saying this is a permanent deal, but right now that’s what our properties are,” Pearson said.

Residents feel they’re being held prisoner by the county as they wait to hear their fate as a community slated to be wiped out by a proposed diversion – a decision that’s potentially a decade away, Pearson said.

Oxbow, located about 15 miles south of Fargo, is among a handful of areas south of a proposed diversion channel that would see an additional 5 to 8 feet of water during a 100-year flood because of the project.

“We have no value,” Pearson said, adding that it’s impossible for residents to sell their homes or even get mortgages in Oxbow, a city of about 300 people.

County Auditor Mike Montplaisir said after Monday’s meeting that the 80 percent of Oxbow’s property taxes would be a small loss to the county but would impact the city’s revenues greatly.

Commission Chairman Darrell Vanyo questioned what the change in valuation would have on the Kindred School District, a cause of much concern by diversion opponents who say the project will shrink the district’s tax base.

The commission, serving as the Cass County Board of Equalization, will weigh in on whether to grant Oxbow residents the tax abatement during their June 20 meeting.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511