October 28, 2014

A lot is taking shape in Watford City’s ‘backyard’

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

Last week, city and county officials had the unique opportunity to tour their very own ‘backyard.’ With every turn of a head, one could see new developments, commercial and industrial projects, road and street projects, accomplishments and future challenges that these community leaders are and will be facing.
To get a good perspective of what is taking place in and around Watford City, what better avenue than a community bus tour guided by McKenzie County’s own leaders? That is exactly what took place Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. For about two hours, city and county officials got to take in the full scope of change, affecting the community, with the main focus being in the Fox Hills, Hunter’s Run, and The Crossings development areas.
Gene Veeder, executive director of the McKenzie County Job Development Authority, started out by passing the microphone over to Mayor Brent Sanford saying, “This is Brent’s town. He’s the King of Watford City.” Which amusingly vocalized the start of the tour, mostly led by Sanford.
To begin, there are a great number of new housing developments currently being built to try and combat some of the major housing concerns locally.
“It’s not easy to find housing here in Watford City right now,” said Sanford. “There are a lot of places with extremely high rents.”
According to Mildred Williams, assistant city planner for the City of Watford City, there are presently 10 developments, building a total of 1,152 units, with an estimated overall value for this year for new construction at $110,441,794. The units include duplexes, apartments, and single family homes. The new developments will be located all around Watford City.
Hunter’s Run
A large portion of land in Hunter’s Run is available and being marketed to ‘neighborhood-type’ retail like a grocery store, gas station, etc., to compliment the new residential development currently underway in Hunter’s Run. The owners of this land are holding out specifically for this type of retail.
“Hunter’s Run has been a good partner with Watford City and McKenzie County,” said Sanford. “There are mostly multi-family units and they are coming up within a matter of months, not years.”
Hunter’s Run will ultimately have a total of 66 duplexes and 459 apartments to help ease the housing crisis in Watford City. They will generate the second highest profit in construction value at $32,891,856.
The Crossings
Just down the road from this retail-targeted area, will be the new regional headquarters for Conoco Phillips, located in ‘The Crossings.’
“This is us getting an ‘A’ on our report card to get Conoco Philips’ headquarters here in Watford City,” said Sanford. “There’s room for hundreds of workers in there.”
The Crossings will also have multiple hotels, a good deal of retail space, and housing developments.
“This bodes well for hotel construction,” said Sanford. “It’s a great market for the workers who are here  working for one week, then off one week, etc.”
Fox Hills
The Fox Hills housing development is where the new Events Center and Watford City High School will be constructed, which is next to a new residential development within Fox Hills. Workers have taken 67 total feet of dirt, thus far, off that hill for the construction of these buildings. That’s a lot of dirt moving!
Fox Hills will have a total of 358 apartments and will bring in the largest amount in new construction with its total value at $33,880,000.
Directly north of that hill is the current golf course and country club. The golf course will be adding an additional nine holes with more single-family housing, which is part of the Fox Hills Golf Estates.
Highway 23 or for some, better known as 4th Avenue NE, will be shut down for most of the summer next year due to the construction of a new, three-lane highway. This road runs just south of the golf course and north of where the new Events Center and Watford City High School will be located.
However, the new bypasses have finally been completed and should help tremendously with the truck traffic.
“I want to say a big thanks to our governor and the Department of Transportation for getting these bypasses done,” said Sanford.
Along with some housing developments, city officials see most of the new developments and projects taking place closer to the bypasses, with the better accessibility.
Other Areas With Noteworthy Developments Or Projects
A common factor seen with the new developers coming into Watford City and McKenzie County is that they have to be ‘cash-buy’ people only.
“You can’t just come in here thinking the banks are going to loan out all of this money,” said Sanford. “They can’t. So it’s the people that are buying with cash. We have developers and buyers that have come from Russia, China, and billionaires that have come from New York buying and developing”
City officials on the tour also got to see a multitude of RV parks, including the indoor RV park south of town, where not only oilfield men are living, but families with children.
“We’re picking up approximately 30 kids every morning from the indoor RV park,” said Jim Svihovec, McKenzie County School District #1 Transportation director. “We pick up kids from most all of these RV parks.”
“It’s sad,” said Sanford. “Families living in these little RVs. Our biggest challenge is getting all of the infrastructure and housing out to the western part of the state to fill the demanding needs.”
A common problem is that people are coming to the Bakken and having to live in these RV parks just to save the money they need to put a down payment on a house here.
“We really need to get people qualified to buy houses and get into adequate housing,” said Sanford.
Some huge accomplishments that will be completed in the near future will include the new courthouse with city and county offices. The new law enforcement center construction will soon begin with construction also slated to start on the new Events Center, high school, and hospital.
Some future projects that will eventually need to happen will be a new post office. They have currently outgrown their building and have no room to expand at their current location. And Wolf Pup Daycare currently has over 160 kids enrolled, and with a capacity of 190 kids, Sanford thinks that by Christmas-time, they will be at capacity.
That is just a little glimpse into the backyard of a small portion of Watford City as of October 2014. Be careful, you might just turn your head and miss another new development, commercial or industrial project,  or road or street project.