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Helmut Schmidt, Published February 18 2010

Fargo Planning Commission delays vote on luxury apartments planned near Island Park

The Fargo Planning Commission voted 4-1 on Wednesday to delay until March a decision on plans by developer Al Carlson to build 58 luxury apartments in the Hawthorne neighborhood.

Planners urged Carlson and neighbors to meet to see if compromises can be found to allow the project to continue in the area, which is part of the Island Park Historic Overlay district.

“It’s better to delay than actually reject it,” said Carlson, who has built two condominium projects in the area. “You’d be hard-pressed to say it’s a historic overlay area.”

Neighborhood resident Steve Zaiser believes a solution can be found.

“I think this could be a very fruitful negotiation,” Zaiser said. However, he emphasized that historic overlay standards should be followed.

Carlson wants to build two five-story 29-plex apartments at 370 and 390 6th St. S. That’s the site of the former MeritCare Island Park Clinic.

David Shultz, chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, said a digital model of the buildings would give a better idea of how they would fit in the neighborhood.

“The height issue is the issue I’d be concerned with,” Shultz said.

Polly Wendelbo said the apartments could be a good addition, but “we want them to blend into the neighborhood.”

Carlson “has an opportunity to be a history builder, just as we are history keepers,” Wendelbo said.

Frances Magin, 373 7th Ave. S., said the plan called for too many apartments, too few parking spots, small setbacks, not enough open space and the buildings were too tall.

“How would you like to have a 69-foot building six feet from your property line?” Magin asked.

“That building is totally out of sync with anything on the block or the neighborhood,” she said. “That fortress on the corner, that’s going to have Al Carlson’s name on it. And the people in the neighborhood don’t want it.”

Carlson reminded planners that the land’s zoning would allow him to build 51 apartments, and that his plan would only add seven more apartments.

“We think this is a very good match for downtown Fargo,” Carlson said.

Commissioners John Miller, Peggy Palmes, Rich Slagle and John Paulsen voted to continue the hearing to the next meeting. Commissioner Jeffrey Morrau voted against the motion. Commissioner Jan Ulferts-Steward abstained.

Commissioners Kristi Fremstad, Kelly Steffes and Catherine Wiley were not present.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583