City Crews Doing An Amazing Job, Smart Growth Will Help Do It Even Better

Our city crews are doing an amazing job, we’re not helping them with premature expansion and scattered development.

We must do better.  The city is now underway with development of a new comprehensive growth plan that will be inclusive for community input that hopefully will help us change direction and focus our development tools towards infill in areas with existing infrastructure and the city’s core.

Glad to see the Forum is coming around to the need for better land use and quality growth to avoid leap frog development:

Published January 07 2011

Forum editorial: Metro’s growing pains exposed

By any reasonable measure, late last week’s back-to-back blast of heavy snow and high winds was fairly rare.

The metro area received a foot of snow in just a few days, and sustained high winds made clearing it away that much more difficult.

So for some homeowners in newer metro developments to loudly complain that their city leaders and municipal snow-removal crews weren’t acting fast enough to remove the piles of white on their streets is a little unwarranted.

In fact, snow-removal crews have been working day and night since the storms subsided to open up roads and widen major thoroughfares.

But the complaints do cast more light on a growing problem in our metro area: Our growth and sprawling footprint has at times outpaced the city services that must also be enhanced to deal with that growth.

Though all our metro cities deal with the same challenges in this regard, West Fargo’s explosive expansion in such a short time illustrates it most dramatically.

Consider this:

In the year 2000, West Fargo had 140 lane miles of road, 15 public works employees and 13 pieces of snow-removal equipment.

Today, 10 years later, West Fargo has 306 lane miles of road, 18 public works employees and 16 pieces of snow-removal equipment.

In 10 years’ time, the city has more than doubled the roads it must maintain but has only added three extra employees and three extra pieces of equipment to do so.

Many of the recent complaints about slow snow responses stem from West Fargo and Fargo’s newest areas, the ones farthest from the city centers. And it’s no wonder.

Developments like Eagle Run and Westport Beach in West Fargo and Osgood in Fargo are currently a little removed geographically from the bulk of their respective cities. There is open, undeveloped land between them and the core neighborhoods, so city plows must first dig out those linking roads in wide-open spaces before they can even reach the new developments.

And therein exposes the problem. Sprawl and leapfrog development creates undue stress on all city services, whether it be snow removal, water treatment, garbage pickup or fire safety. Smart growth means filling in a city as it naturally grows outward from its core, and developing the services commensurate with that even and sustainable footprint.

City leaders should insist that roads, sewers and other essential infrastructure not grow beyond what taxpayers can reasonably support and maintain.

Sure, geographic growth is generally viewed as a positive thing. A growing tax base is certainly better than a shrinking one. But we can develop a community that makes sense and prevents sprawl.

When services don’t or can’t keep up with growth, taxpayers throughout our cities are harmed financially and otherwise, and those living on the outskirts are left holding the shovel until snowplows can reach them.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.