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Heidi Shaffer, Published September 28 2010

City of Fargo updating planning policy

Fargo is updating a policy plan that will help leaders, businesses and residents guide the direction the city should take in the future.

The city is beginning an 18-month process of updating its comprehensive policy plan, which acts as an “overreaching umbrella” that shapes the city’s growth, development and future goals, said city planner Jim Hinderaker.

The Planning Department met with leaders from the city, school board, park board, county and Metro Council of Governments to ask for their participation in the update.

The last policy plan was completed in 1995, and the document served as the basis of the city’s growth plan and helped shape the North Dakota State University technology park and downtown revitalization, Hinderaker said.

Commissioner Mike Williams said it’s important to get other local jurisdictions in on the discussion, especially in light of recent debate over growth into south Fargo to accommodate the new Davies High School.

Neighbors voiced opposition over special assessments to pay for the installation of roads and utilities to connect the city to Davies, which is set to open next fall on 70th Avenue South.

The perception in the past has been that all growth was good growth, Hinderaker said, but the new policy plan can help guide development in the direction the public and leaders want it to go.

“It’s the framework under which other plans can be made,” he said.

Planners will gather input from residents and businesses throughout the process and plan to hold public meetings on the update.

The policy update is funded through a $225,000 federal energy grant along with $25,000 in city dollars, Hinderaker said.

As part of the grant, the city will develop an energy strategy – which will include ways the city can become more sustainable and decrease energy consumption – and weave it throughout the rest of the plan, Hinderaker said.

Commissioner Brad Wimmer, who attended the North Dakota League of Cities conference in Bismarck last week, said Fargo’s policies are watched closely by others in the state.

“All eyes really are on Fargo,” he said. “We may not have another chance to do this for another 15, 20 years.”

The city is conducting a national search for a consulting firm to help conduct the update and will establish a local multi-jurisdictional steering committee to develop the plan.

Roger Gress, executive director of the Fargo Park District, said he sees the city’s plan as a blueprint the parks, school and county use to steer their own policies.

“Fargo is a huge, huge engine in North Dakota, and we’re all pieces of that,” Gress said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511