February 16, 2011

Housing continues to be a concern

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Recent studies and observations show that McKenzie County is in need of housing. A problem that has been ongoing.
“Based on a state commissioned study, Watford City’s projected permanent population for the next 20 plus years is between 2,600 and 3,000,” says Brent Sanford, Watford City mayor. “For the past 20 years, Watford City’s population has been in the 1,500 range. That means we need to construct housing for a minimum of 1,000 more people.”
According to Sanford, the current housing need is being handled by temporary work force housing consisting mainly of travel trailers in the city’s existing mobile home areas plus some skid shacks and a growing number of park model cabins that are being rented by individuals. But temporary housing is just that, temporary.
“This housing for 1,000 more people needs to be in an appropriate blend of mobile homes, apartments, condos, duplexes, single family starter homes and single family larger homes,” adds Sanford.
Such a great need for housing has not gone unnoticed by investors. Watford City currently has several large housing projects underway on all sides of the city. But without some infrastructure improvements by the city, the projects may not be able to be completed as planned.
According to a survey commissioned by the city of Watford City, the city needs immediate improvements to the sewer system in the amount of $2,000,000 to handle more people in the city limits and $500,000 to extend water lines and loop existing lines to accommodate the new areas, and that isn’t even the most expensive project needed.
“The city will need to spend roughly $5,500,000 to extend sewer lines south, north and west of the city to handle projects that are currently being planned,” states Sanford. “Current projects in the beginning stages include 100 plus single family homes on Konrad Norstog’s property southwest of the city, Greg Dougherty’s 100 plus mobile homes west of the city, Liberty Hills six apartment buildings northwest of the city, Goldnen Welch’s 200 living units, including apartments, condos, duplexes and single family homes, also northwest of the city, Cascade Homes’ 64 single family homes northeast of the city and Greg Simonson’s 100 plus single family homes north of the city.”
Currently, Watford City plans to use the Governor’s Oil Infrastructure Impact Fund bill to cover the needed infrastructure improvements. But there is some concern that the bill will not pass the Legislature.
“If the Governor’s Oil Impact Fund bill does not come to fruition and Watford City has no ability to tap state oil revenues to assist with this infrastructure, then the city will have a difficult time providing sewer and water hookups to these developments,” adds Sanford. “The city has no other avenues for funding because it is maxed out for General Obligation bonding and it has already leveraged the oil revenue bonding for Main Street. Special Assessments to new developments for sewer trunk lines could be used, but that becomes cost-prohibitive as they will already have to absorb the costs of the sewer, water, curb and gutter for their developments.”
If the developments aren’t annexed into the city, according to Sanford, the projects may digress into one plus acre lot subdivisions with septic systems and rural water or even their own lagoons.
“Without the funding for trunk lines, these projects would have no advantage being annexed into the city,” says Sanford. “If they aren’t annexed, the city will miss out on the chance to expand its borders and have a larger tax base, which would generate more revenue to provide the services that the city residents and rural residents living within five miles of the city use every day.”
Even with several housing projects in the works, Watford City’s housing problems still aren’t solved.