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Published June 08 2010

West Fargo city commissioners approve tax exemption for tech center

West Fargo commissioners approved Monday night by a split vote a property tax exemption for the West Fargo Technology Center, slated to open in less than a month.

The center, under construction in the Pioneer Center shopping plaza, will house a mixture of retail and office space. The top floor of the two-story, 26,000-square-foot building is being developed especially for technology businesses.

Businesses receiving tax exemptions from West Fargo usually do so under an agreement to create jobs.

But in this case, the center will instead be required to lease a certain amount of space to technology businesses, or face a fee of $1.63 per square foot that’s not leased, West Fargo Assessor Wanda Wilcox said.

The monetary value of the property tax exemption has not yet been determined because a final assessment of the property can’t be done until construction is complete, Wilcox said.

West Fargo officials will review the exemption program on an annual basis to confirm how much space is being leased to technology businesses, she said.

City officials have touted the technology center as an opportunity to diversify West Fargo’s economy, but commissioners faced lone opposition to city incentives on the project again Monday from Commissioner Mike Thorstad.

Thorstad previously opposed a $200,000 commitment the city had made to the technology center’s developer without approval from the commission.

Thorstad said after Monday’s meeting he voted against the property tax exemption program because the technology center isn’t going to be used entirely for what it was meant, among other concerns he has.

“It doesn’t equate to a technology center,” Thorstad said. “I think we’ve already committed enough to it, and it hasn’t happened in that sense. It’s going to have retail and office, and that’s not a technology center.”

Mayor Rich Mattern and Commissioners Lou Bennett, Mark Simmons and Bryan Schulz voted in favor of the property tax exemption.

Three technology companies are already poised to move in to the building by July 1, George Gaukler, the project’s developer and contractor, told the commission.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541