Growing concerns bring crowd to city hall

Minot residents turned out in force to protest paving districts and expansions of an RV park and church building at the Minot City Council meeting Monday.

Council chambers overflowed with people wanting to make their voices heard.

Minot’s growing pains were apparent in the number residents objecting to inclusion in paving districts made necessary by new developments being built in their existing neighborhoods. Some paving districts had advanced to the bid stage without public notification because developers requesting the districts owned most of the property, which overrides any protest and eliminates the need for notification of neighbors under the city code.

The city is in the process of developing a policy manual for special assessments that would require notification of everyone included in a proposed district. In some cases heard Monday, notification was provided, but in other cases, upset residents rose to protest that they just learned about districts that are well into the formulation process.

“Although it may be legal, I don’t know if it’s moral or ethical to do that to the citizens of that neighborhood,” said Joel Feist, a developer who joined residents in opposing a proposed special assessment district for paving on 30th Avenue Northwest. Some developers, like Feist, who paid for their own project infrastructure, opposed being included in special assessment districts requested by other developers.

Jeff Dunn, whose property was to be included in the 30th Avenue project, said he would not benefit but would only see more traffic from street improvements.

“All I see this is, is the developer trying to get someone else to foot the bill,” he said.

The council voted to abandon the 30th Avenue District and another district in northwest Minot. In a few other cases, the council let the districts proceed to a special assessment committee, which determines how assessments are spread among property owners. Assessments are based on benefit so residents have a chance to argue to the committee that their benefit is limited.

The council approved a subdivision request and alley relocation for a building expansion by Christ Lutheran Church. The project had been held by the planning commission for a month while the church addressed neighborhood concerns. Last week, the commission voted to recommend council approval. A few neighbors came to the council to express lingering concerns about the alley change and parking arrangement.

The council denied a permit to the new owners of the Roughrider Campground to expand onto property abutting the Big 4 Boy Scout Camp. The owners laid out plan for improving the campground into a recreational vehicle resort. The plan included a fence, trees and surveillance cameras as a buffer and security between the campground and Big 4. They said they planned to patrol their campground and conduct background checks of campers.

Darrell Kraft, scoutmaster, said the expansion will make it more difficult to create a secure environment for Scouts and to retain the feeling of seclusion that Big 4 provides.

Area residents also spoke against the expansion because of concerns over the sewer system and traffic, and because of their lack of confidence in the owners’ ability to follow through on promises.

In other action, council member Blake Krabseth asked the council to advance a Wal-Mart development on 21st Avenue Northwest that the planning commission held due to neighborhood concerns. Although neighbors were notified of the possibility that the project could be discussed on the meeting, council members were reluctant to move forward.

“I am afraid that our constituents would be very disappointed,” council member Amy Moen said. “For that reason, I am not going to vote that we push this through.”

Krabseth’s motion to just address a related issue regarding property for a future interchange at 21st Avenue Northwest and the U.S. Highway 83 Bypass failed to get a second. Krabseth wanted the council to agree to pay the property owner rather than have the owner give a piece of property to the city for an interchange at the time the property is developed. He noted other property at the intersection that already is developed would have to be purchased by the city for an interchange.

In other action, the council adopted the recommendation of Minot’s MAGIC Fund Screening Committee in approving a $3.4 million grant to expand rail line at the agricultural complex and Port of North Dakota. Minot Area Development Corp. requested the funding for about 7,800 feet of rail and development, site work and associated costs.

The council approved on second reading a reformulation of the 1 percent sales tax to include flood control as an expenditure. The new tax, to begin July 1, 2014, will be divided with half for flood control, 25 percent for capital improvements, 15 percent for economic development and 10 percent for property-tax relief.