May 11, 2011

Council says “no” to zoning changes

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

At a time when new housing is in big demand in Watford City, one would assume that the city council would welcome any plans that would add new housing to the community. But during the Watford City City Council’s meeting on Wednesday, May 4, the council followed the advice of Curt Moen, city planner, in denying two zoning change requests from developers. The two zoning change requests  were for property located on the city’s north side.
“What it comes down to is allowing developers to spot zone to fit their needs, not the needs of the city,” stated Moen.
According to Moen, one of the zoning requests from Hinckley-James, Inc. was a request to rezone a parcel of land in the vicinity of the Baptist Church from R-1 to R-2.
“This property is zoned as R-1, which is for single family homes,” stated Moen. “They (the developers) could develop the property for single family homes, but they want to develop it for higher density housing. If the council approves the change, the new zoning would change the character of the neighborhood.”
According to Moen, Hinckley-James, Inc. is proposing to construct twin homes as well as other multiple family housing units on the property.
“The question is do you want to allow multiple family units in an R1 zone? If you allow it for this development, how do you deny another developer later from doing the same thing.”
But according to Glen Beard, who serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission which approved recommending the zoning change, it was the committee’s belief that it would provide for affordable housing.
“The layout and design is solid,” stated Moen. “I just don’t agree with a developer being able to do something just to fit their needs. It’s bad planning.”
City Councilman Justin Voll also agreed with Moen that the development needs to follow the R1 zoning requirements.
“This area is truly the last area we have that can be zoned and developed for single family homes,” stated Voll. “We need to make sure that we have an area for that kind of housing.”
The council also followed the same logic when they denied a recommendation by the Planning and Zoning Commission to change zoning on a parcel of land north of the Catholic Church from its current agriculture zoning to RP to accommodate residential homes being proposed by the Elemental Development Group.
“There are no design standards with Elemental Development Group’s plans,” stated Moen. “There is just a drawing and that drawing means nothing. I’d be very wary unless they provide design standards for the city’s review.”
According to Moen, although the Elemental Development Group has a solid plan, which includes the development of the area to include condos, a motel and possibly commercial businesses, he has concerns.
“They want to do what they want with the property,” stated Moen. “We can approve this when they come to us with a detailed plan. But unless they do that, I’d be opposed to the zoning change.”
During Wednesday night’s meeting, the council also approved the final plat submitted by John Dunlap for Veeder Estates. According to Dunlap, he will have 23 lots available for single family homes and he believes that there is a market for the homes.
In other business, the city council:
•Approved a request from the Relay For Life Committee to have a fireworks display at the Tourist Park prior to 11 p.m. on June 3 providing there is no fire ban.
• Approved a zoning variance submitted by Lyle Bruins for a 15’ front yard variance at 329 4th Street NW.
•Approved a lawn maintenance contract with Todd Hayden for the City Hall and the Visitor Center.
• Approved the second reading of an ordinance amending Section 3 of Article XXIX, Chapter XV regarding building permits required in extra-territorial zoning jurisdictions.
•Approved the second reading of an ordinance adding Article IX (A) to Chapter XV establishing zoning district A-2.
• Approved the first reading of an ordinance amending Chapter 1, Article 103 which would eliminate wards within the city for voting purposes.
• Approved rescinding Identity Theft Prevention Program.
•Approved a special permit submitted by Cheryl Faulkner and D & M’s Office to serve alcohol at the McKenzie County Fairgrounds for the Faulkner/Ranger wedding dance on June 4.
• Approved an application for abatement of taxes submitted by the Dakota District of the Wesleyan Church for a church parsonage.
• Approved hiring Jesse Wellen as a police officer effective June1.
•Approved advertising and hiring a Code Enforcer for the city.
• Approved advertising and hiring an additional office employee at city hall.
• Approved advertising and hiring a summer mowing position.
• Approved the second reading on the extra-territorial zoning boundary to be zoned as A-2.
• Approved the first reading of an ordinance restricting the parking of campers on city streets and alleys.
• Approved gaming sites from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012 for the American Legion Post 29 at the American Legion Club, D & M’s Office and Watford City Bar, and for the Watford City FOE #3543 at the McKenzie County Fairgrounds.
• Approved payment of a $3,632.64 Energy Impact Office grant to the Watford City Fire Dept.