‘I can literally say, I did everything I can’: Legal battle underway between Grand Forks and petitioners over Fufeng project land

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 6:22 PM CDT
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DEVILS LAKE, N.D. (Valley News Live) - A legal battle between the City of Grand Forks and petitioners over the Fufeng project land is underway. The battleground is held in Devils Lake after district judges recused themselves, sending the case to Ramsey County.

The petitioners are seeking for the right to have a vote by the residents in regard to a corn milling plant being built by Fufeng USA in the northern part of Grand Forks.

“The city should have fought this the proper way, at the ballot, with politics, not through impermissible use of the law.” said Robby Dube of Eckland & Blando LLP.

Dube, alongside Mark Blando and David Thompson are representing the petitioners in this case. Both sides spent close to an hour and a half at the Ramsey County Memorial Courthouse making their case to Judge Donovan Foughty. It revolves around many matters, but the main factor is whether the city has to accept a referendum from the petitioners to put the project to a vote.

“If the city has put things like whether there should be a pool in a certain location, mundane things like that. Whether there should be a new public park in the city, then why shouldn’t something of this magnitude be proper for a public vote.”

Many have said they don’t want a Chinese entity operating so close to them or near a U.S. Air Force base. Others however, have argued against the project for environmental reasons.

“To me it’s a no-brainer. We don’t need this factory. We love our clean air, we love our clean water. We can stand on any one of those issues and fight this thing.” said Craig Spicer, one of the petitioners.

The City of Grand Forks’ legal representation said the petitioners could have gone a different route, and possibly could have had the vote already on the ballot.

“That’s the fundamental problem with this case your honor. It is the referral of a contract,” said Scott Porsborg, who is representing the City of Grand Forks. “There are maybe other things that would get this to a vote in the City of Grand Forks. But if there is, they simply referred to the wrong thing.”

For the petitioners themselves, some making the long trip to Devils Lake, are just glad to have their day in court and now wait for the results to come in.

“If I don’t stand up now, and stand up for what I believe in. My kids and my grandkids look back and say, ‘Well, what did you do Grandpa? Why didn’t you step up?’. I can literally say, I did everything I can.” said Spicer.

Now all involved await the decision from Judge Foughty.

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