Growing Well Matters, Let’s Do The Math‏

Fargo’s in a fantastic situation and we’ve been growing for years thanks to a lot of good work by many. In the past 15 years we’ve seen a bit over 1% population growth a year, but recently Fargo’s population is accelerating three times that. How and where we grow matters.

Here’s an apt cartoon from Trygve Olson in today’s Forum:

Maybe we’re gaining some traction on improving land use? It’s hard to change the status quo but the math shows we have to do better with planning and land use if we’re going to reach Fargo’s great potential.

Here’s some of this weeks articles and interviews on our need to improve land use to grow well:

KVLY Planning/Commission piece 4-25-14

Forum “We want to make sure we grow well” 4-25-14

KFGO Joel Heitkamp interview on growing well: 4-28-14

 Some basic math shows why we need to improve our density and land use in Fargo

Fargo’s been growing for years and we’re in a fantastic situation thanks to a lot of good work by many. In the past 15 years we’ve seen a bit over 1% population growth a year, but recently Fargo’s population is accelerating three times that.

The current footprint of land in Fargo’s annexed area is just over 48 square miles with a population of about 112,000.

48 square miles = 30,720 acres divided into 112,000 pop = 3.6 people per acre.

In Fargo’s comprehensive plan there is a goal of 9 people per acre, this is the density we currently have in our popular mature existing neighborhoods like Hawthorne, Clara Barton, Horace Mann and others.

Planning Director Jim Gilmour recently informed us the that Fargo’s growth by 2040 is 154,170 and metro’s growth is projected population growth by 2040 is 259,950 people.

When we do the math, we find we currently have enough land to accommodate our  population estimate and more if we achieve our 9 people per acre density goal.

30,720 acres X 9 people per acre = 276,480 population in our current footprint. Even if we only add two people per acre in the next 25 years would be 61,440 more people added to our current 115,000 = 175,440 people, far more than the 154,170 that is projected.

Conversely, if we continue to grow at 3.6 people per acre, we would need to more than double our current footprint of 48 sections.

259,950 pop est by 2040 divided by 3.6 people per acre = 72,208 acres needed.

30,720 acres to 72,208 acres or 112 sections compared to our current 48 sections.

The vast majority if not all new development areas south of 52nd Ave are lower than the new FEMA 100 year flood levels. While we’re working diligently to build the diversion, even if we started today, it wouldn’t be complete for 10 years. Even with the diversion, we need in town protection to accommodate flows through town during a 500 year event.

We’re working to protect Fargo with dikes and floodwalls to a level of 42′.5″ to avoid higher cost of flood insurance. We can complete this sooner if we don’t expand our boundaries into low lying land south of 70th Ave.

How do we accomplish this? First we have to acknowledge that we have to improve our land use and work to meet our goals for density. It would be helpful to follow the key priorities set out with over 8,000 people engaged. Prioritize and develop a work plan with measures to implement the goals of Fargo GO2030. The top 5 are:

#1. Flood protection

#2. Infill/strong neighborhoods

#3. Arts and Culture

#4. Bike and pedestrian facilities

#5. Quality design standards

What are some ideas on ways to achieve these? Here are a few of mine:

Leave agricultural zoning in place on perimeter until it fits to reach our density goals.

Be more selective on where to apply incentives and planning focus. Target new home tax incentives and city financing of infrastructure for new development to closer in areas and infill areas that have existing infrastructure and are already covered by city services of Fire, Police, Garbage, Street cleaning/snow removal, Forestry.

Increase incentives on mixed use and affordable housing infill and redevelopment projects in under utilized areas with existing infrastructure and services.

Continue to improve areas to encourage walking, biking, and transit and reduce need to drive. Our residents on average spend 27% of income on transportation, higher than 24% for housing. If a family has two cars instead of three by living in a area where the need for driving is reduced, they save about $9,000 annually.

Fargo’s a wonderful community. We do our best when we work and grow well together. Let’s make sure Fargo is growing well!