Quality Growth Will Make For A More Attractive, Sustainable Community

Glad to see the Forum is supporting my motion at the last commission meeting for developing a City of Fargo tree and buffer vegetation preservation policy and to consider adopting Cass County’s 450′ watercourse setback ordinance.

Thanks also to my fellow commissioners for unanimously approving my motion to direct staff and planners to develop a City of Fargo tree and buffer vegetation preservation policy and to review and consider adopting Cass County’s 450′ watercourse setback ordinance.

Thanks to Keith Berndt for accepting my invitation to explain Cass County’s 450′ water course setback that we are now studying.   I believe we should adopt the 450′ setback to back away from rivers and drains to preserve greenways, connect walking/biking trails and improve public safety while reducing exposure to flooding.

On another matter, I voted to deny the Deer Creek plat and rezoning as did Commissioners Wimmer and Piepkorn on a 3 – 2 vote.  I voted to deny this plat as it would have permitted houses to be built as close as 100′ to the river as well as destroying hundreds of trees.

For many good reasons, including the increased frequency and severity of floods and soil stability on the river banks, it’s important that we back away from rivers and drains and preserve greenways and trees.  The developers are now working with staff to alter the plans so houses will not be as close to the river, will preserve many more trees and buffer vegetation, and allow for a recreational trail that borders the woods.

Our community and city staff has been doing a good job working through the difficulty and high cost and emotional turmoil of home buyouts of properties built close to rivers and drains. Most of the homes that have been on the voluntary buyout lists are within 450’ of the River.  To reduce areas that need sandbags, the city is also establishing a program to work with homeowners that are currently outside of FEMA existing floodplain and have technically feasible opportunities for better flood protection for our neighborhoods.

Now that we are developing in areas close to the Sheyenne River, which has different features than the Red River but could still flood, we have taken this opportunity to direct our staff and planning commission to review our current Watercourse Setback policies and our Vegetative Buffer zone and tree preservation policies.  Our long term comprehensive plan calls for increasing bike/ped connectivity and preserving trees while backing away from rivers and drains.

Water is a precious resource, we can’t live without it and we need to manage it as best we can.  Work is progressing, but it’s going to take many years to concurrently improve and develop more comprehensive basin wide water management that includes Devils Lake stabilization, basin wide retention to conserve water and recharge aquifers in droughts while helping protect in flood years, as well as mitigation and a F-M diversion.

Reviewing and improving our current land use policies now is important to best protect our city and grow in a more safe, sustainable manner.

Published September 21 2010

Fargo city commissioners deny Deer Creek additon rezoning

City to look at tree preservation policy
The Fargo City Commission denied rezoning the Deer Creek addition on Monday because of disagreement over the placement of parkland and recreation trails.By: Heidi Shaffer, INFORUM

The Fargo City Commission denied rezoning the Deer Creek addition on Monday because of disagreement over the placement of parkland and recreation trails.

The decision halts development for now in the southwest Fargo 813-lot housing addition, which was set to start installing underground utilities this fall.

Disagreement arose between developers, Corn II LLC, and the commission at its Sept. 7 meeting over a bike path that was in original plans but later scrapped because the Sheyenne River’s banks proved too unstable.

Commissioners said the trail is part of the city’s comprehensive growth plan and asked developers to find a solution for its inclusion.

Discussion Monday also centered on finding a way to preserve wooded areas next to the Sheyenne along the development’s western edge.

“This is really a beautiful area,” Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said, adding that he wants the city to find a way to preserve the trees, possibly as part of parkland.

Mahoney said he felt the city may be asking the Deer Creek developer to do more than was asked of previous developments.

“If he didn’t have trees, we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” Mahoney said. “I think you’re changing the level of what you’re asking the developer to do.”

The developer gave two alternatives Monday, but after much discussion, the commission could not agree on either alternative, instead voting 3-2 to deny the rezoning of the development. Commissioner Tim Mahoney and Mayor Dennis Walaker were the two dissenting votes.

Steve Iverson, a consultant for the development group, reminded commissioners that the city of Fargo is in competition for development with surrounding communities.

Iverson would not comment on future plans for the development, but Commissioner Brad Wimmer said the issue should go back to the Planning Commission for negotiations.

Discussion over the bike path and tree preservation spurred a proposal by Commissioner Mike Williams to direct city staff to look into adopting Cass County’s rules on river setbacks and establish a tree-preservation policy.

The city’s current setback standard is 100 feet from a river’s floodway, but the county measures 450 feet from the center of the waterway.

City Planner Jim Hinderaker said along the Red River, city and county setbacks would not vary greatly because of the Red’s wide floodway.

But because the Sheyenne River has high banks and does not have a floodway, city setbacks would be 100 feet from the river itself, Hinderaker said.

The city also lacks a tree-preservation policy, something Williams said he wants addressed in the future.

Planning and engineering staff will examine the policies and present recommendations to the commission by the end of the year.

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