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Mike Williams, Published October 03 2010

City tree policies in works

Thank you for the Sept. 26 Forum editorial regarding the Fargo City Commission’s recent votes concerning Fargo’s watercourse setback policies and the need for enhanced tree preservation policies. Thanks also to my fellow commis-sioners for unanimous-ly approving my motion to direct staff and planners to develop a city of Fargo tree and buffer vegetation preservation policy and to review and consider adopting Cass County’s

450-foot watercourse setback ordinance.

Thanks to Cass County Engineer Keith Berndt for accepting my invitation to explain Cass County’s 450-foot watercourse setback that we are now studying. I believe we should adopt the 450-foot setback to back away from rivers and drains to preserve greenways, connect walking/biking trails and improve public safety while reducing exposure to flooding.

On another matter, I voted to deny the Deer Creek plat and rezoning, as did Commissioners Brad Wimmer and Dave Piepkorn on a 3-2 vote. I voted to deny this plat because it would have permitted houses to be built as close as 100 feet from the river as well as destroying hundreds of trees.

The developers are now working with staff to alter the plans so houses will not be as close to the river, will preserve many more trees and buffer vegetation, and allow for a recreational trail that borders the woods.

Our community and city staff has been doing a good job working through the difficulty and high cost and emotional turmoil of home buyouts of properties built close to rivers and drains. Most of the homes that have been on the voluntary buyout lists are within 450 feet of the river. To reduce areas that need sandbags, the city is also establishing a program to work with homeowners who are currently outside of FEMA existing floodplain and have technically feasible opportunities for better flood protection for our neighborhoods.

Now that we are developing in areas close to the Sheyenne River, which has different features than the Red River but could still flood, we have taken this opportunity to direct our staff and planning commission to review our current watercourse setback policies and our vegetative buffer zone and tree preservation policies.

Our long-term comprehensive plan calls for increasing bike/ped connectivity and preserving trees while backing away from rivers and drains.

Water is a precious resource – we can’t live without it, and we need to manage it as best we can. Work is progressing, but it’s going to take many years to concurrently improve and develop more comprehensive basinwide water management that includes Devils Lake stabilization, basinwide retention to conserve water and recharge aquifers in droughts while helping protect in flood years, as well as mitigation and a Fargo-Moorhead diversion.

Reviewing and improving our current land-use policies now is important to best protect our city and grow in a more safe, sustainable manner.

Williams in a Fargo city commissioner.