Concern delays apartment decision

A neighborhood opposed to a proposed apartment development claimed a first-round victory when the Minot Planning Commission voted Tuesday to hold off on a decision on the project.

Future Builders is proposing to build 57 units in two three-story complexes south of 16th Avenue and west of 13th Street Southeast. The company is seeking setback variances to match the rest of the neighborhood, and out-dated zoning would need to change to comply with the updated zoning ordinance.

Neighbors reported collecting 143 signatures on petitions submitted to the commission in opposition.

Denise Tischer, a neighbor, voiced residents’ concern over a change in the plan of about four years ago that called for townhomes in that area. She said the three-story apartments will eliminate any privacy as apartment residents will be able to see into windows and backyards.

The plan also called for extending Sycamore Avenue east to 11th Street, which neighbors want to keep as a cul de sac or dead end. The avenue extension was suggested by developers at the request of the city to better provide utilities, snow removal and other city services.

What caught the planning commission’s attention, though, was the short notice given to neighbors on the final plans. Neighbors didn’t learn of the plans to extend Sycamore until two days before the meeting.

Commissioner Tyler Neether offered a motion to approve the project based on information showing the project meets the zoning requirements for approval and that the extension of Sycamore is needed by the city.

However, he added, “I do definitely feel for the neighbors in this area.”

Commissioner John Zimmerman countered with a motion to hold the matter for a month. He noted that neighbors haven’t had adequate time to assess the project.

“These neighbors are going to have to live with whatever evolves there,” he said. “There’s not been a proper chance for the developer to educate them on what’s going on.”

The commission, acting with only 7 of 13 members present, voted 5-2 to hold the matter.

The commission also voted to hold a variance request from DSW Homes on a home rebuild under the city’s program to reconstruct or rehabilitate flooded houses with Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery dollars. Neighbors indicated the homeowner didn’t appear to qualify for the program based on the residency requirement, nor did they believe the house actually flooded in 2011.

City officials indicated the matter would be investigated.

The Minot Park District presented an ordinance that would provide for developer fees to bolster a fund to build additional parks.

As presented, typical fees would be $1,000 on a single-family or two-family houses and $305 to $335 per unit for multi-family dwellings. Commercial property developers would pay 0.1 percent of the building permit value. The Minot Place project, listed as an example, would pay a fee of over $17,000 under that fee schedule.

Some commissioners questioned whether the fees are realistic.

“I just see some developer apprehension on this,” commission chairman Dave Pankow said.

Ron Merritt, executive director of the park district, presented information from comparable cities in Wisconsin and West Fargo, which had higher fees.

Merritt said an ordinance would provide the park district with the ability to negotiate with developers on the amount of fees, land donations or a combination of both.