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Dave Olson, Published September 10 2012

West Fargo hotel/conference center proposal clears early hurdle

WEST FARGO – After hearing from several residents who raised concerns about noise, traffic and safety, the West Fargo Planning and Zoning Commission voted Monday to move along a proposal for a hotel and conference center.

In response to residents’ worries, the commission directed staff to work toward a meeting between area residents and planners of the development, which would be located to the southwest of the corner of Ninth Street East and 19th Avenue, near Cheney Middle School.

The commission’s vote Monday essentially found that the proposal is consistent with city plans and ordinances, even though a number of residents who spoke at the meeting said they were unaware a hotel or conference center were a possibility for the area and had they known they might have purchased homes elsewhere.

West Fargo City Administrator Jim Brownlee told the commission that city officials have been aware of the possibility for about eight years.

Steven Zimmer, senior city planner, said that since about 2000 the city’s comprehensive plan has contained language allowing for such a use in areas identified as office parks, which the land in question is.

Zimmer added that the developer will now have to come forward with a detailed plan containing more specifics.

Commissioner Jerry Beck said he felt there was a need for such a development in the city, but like several of the residents who spoke up Monday, he questioned whether streets in the area could handle the traffic it would create.

Zimmer said traffic loads will be looked at, adding that he did not anticipate any issues.

No representatives from the West Fargo School District spoke Monday.

However, David Flowers, superintendent for the school district, said last week that the district would be “supportive of any revisions in that plan that take into account the proximity of the large buildings in that complex” to nearby housing and schools.

Lisa Dirk, a resident who spoke at Monday’s meeting, said she was worried that her home and others nearby would be made “the buffer” zone between any hotel/conference center and the rest of the city.

Mike Tomaski, president of the Evergreen Estates homeowners association, raised concerns about where traffic would enter and exit the complex, as well as issues regarding signs and lighting.

He also said talk of two multi-story hotels in the area was of “immediate concern,” though he added that the association was willing to work with the developer and city on finding ways to address residents’ fears.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555