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What to know about Tuesday's Arbor Park vote

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A number of business leaders have spoken favorably of a proposed redevelopment for downtown Grand Forks' Arbor Park (on right), but others wishing to preserve the park have staunchly oppose them. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 2

There are a few out-of-the-ordinary things to remember about Tuesday's election on Arbor Park, from where voting takes place to how the ballot language works.

The election is set to decide the fate of the pocket park at 15 S. Fourth St. Petitioners who hope to preserve it have blocked a city land deal at the park with thousands of signatures, forcing Tuesday's special election. Their proposal asks voters to decide whether the park should be transferred to a caretaker group—which will be the Park District—for care "in perpetuity."

If voters approve the measure, it means the park will be kept and likely improved by the Park District. If they reject it, it will clear the way for a construction deal to proceed, likely resulting in a five-story condo building on the site, which could have space for multiple businesses.

And that's where some of the oddities come in. The closest thing to the status quo would be keeping the park, but unlike many ballot measures, voters will have to cast a "yes" vote to keep what they have. Unlike in many other ballot measures, it's a "no" vote that results in the biggest change.

Voting takes place entirely at the Alerus Center from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. That situation has previously drawn voting access concerns from park proponents, who worry how people without easy access to transportation will vote.

City leaders' response has centered on absentee voting, which has been open since May 11, Grand Forks County Auditor Debbie Nelson said. Speaking on Friday, she was able to give current numbers through Thursday, and said 577 absentee ballots have been mailed, and 415 have been returned.

Grand Forks City Clerk Sherie Lundmark said those numbers closely track 417 absentee ballots cast in a 2011 special election on a sales tax increase to fund a new library in which more than 7,000 votes were cast.

"It's right in line with what we typically see," she said.

Sam Easter

Sam Easter is a City Government reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. You can reach him with story tips, comments and ideas at 701-330-3441.

(701) 780-1108