Commission weighs neighborhood concerns over developments

A commercial project off Fourth Avenue Northwest and a senior housing project in southeast Minot won support of the Minot Planning Commission Monday despite some neighborhood concerns. However, commissioners sided with neighbors opposed to an apartment project on U.S. Highway 2 East.

Previous development plans for property at the corner of Fourth Avenue and 27th Street have been contentious with neighbors because of traffic concerns, and the latest request proved to be no different. Zoned for townhouses, the property would be rezoned for neighborhood commercial under the plan that the commission is recommending to the Minot City Council.

Property owner Phil Handley of Scottsdale, Ariz., said he is pursuing commercial uses because there no longer is a market for townhouses. He said professional offices and small retail would benefit residents of that area.

Resident John Bills presented the neighborhood’s arguments against the change, which included traffic congestion and lack of fit with a residential area. Neighbor Chuck Keller said traffic already is a problem.

“We have a safety issue there that needs to be addressed,” he said.

Preliminary information from a traffic study shows the intersection would remain at an acceptable level of service with a commercial project, although the type of commercial activity could affect the actual results, city traffic engineer Stephanie Harman said.

City engineer Lance Meyer said traffic signals aren’t likely to be warranted at 27th Street and Fourth Avenue even with development at the intersection. Signals also could be problematic because of the nearness of the U.S. Highway 83 Bypass ramps. He said some improvements on Fourth Avenue may be necessary in the future, but that still doesn’t address the problem of congestion from southbound motorists looking to turn left off 27th Street onto Fourth Avenue.

“I have yet to see a development that doesn’t increase traffic to some extent,” commissioner Wally Berning said. “This doesn’t seem to be one that would not be manageable.”

The commission approved the request 6-4.

The commission voted 10-0 to recommend approval of 115 housing units in two 36-unit apartment buildings and twinhomes on the south side of the intersection of 14th Avenue and Third Street Southeast.

“We feel it’s going to address a critical need that Minot has coming,” said owner Bruce Walker, who noted the population aged 65 and older is expected to grow by 30 percent in the next 12 to 15 years.

Neighbor Peggy Smetana opposed the project, saying the added traffic would increase problems at the already dangerous intersection. She voiced concern about emergency vehicles being able to access the property and about potential flooding of a nearby cemetery from runoff created by the development.

Fire marshal Ed Hausauer said the department isn’t against the project, although it has concerns about the single exit and entrance and narrow streets that will require snow to be removed rather than just pushed aside.

Other neighbors also had concerns about drainage, although they liked the project’s intent.

Walker said he plans to address drainage and also would be looking into other concerns raised at the meeting.

In other business, the commission voted 9-1 to deny a request for a 48-unit affordable housing apartment building between Nedrose School and Minot Sash & Door. Neighbors objected that the project is not a fit for a commercial area along a major highway, and commissioners agreed.