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Erik Burgess, Published February 26 2014

Housing development proposed for Cardinal Muench property would require levee work, special assessments

FARGO – Nearby homeowners could be on the hook for levee repairs if a proposed housing development at the former Cardinal Muench Seminary is finalized.

Comstock Holding Co. has proposed 60 single-family housing units at the former seminary site, 100 35th Ave. N., which was sold by the Fargo Catholic Diocese last year.

Development plans for Edgewood Estates were submitted to the city Wednesday, and the Fargo Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing on the plans at 5 p.m. April 1 at City Hall.

Because of the site’s proximity to the Red River, the developer will be required to build the lots and homes at an elevation above the floodplain, said City Engineer April Walker.

And the levee that runs along the river for the length of the site also needs to be reconstructed because it was built during an emergency and was never meant to be permanent, she said.

Walker said the development area would be specially assessed for levee work, and other nearby homes not in the new development area could also be assessed.

“Because other properties would benefit from the levee,” Walker said.

The special assessment district has not been defined because plans for the development aren’t far enough along, Walker said. She didn’t have a timeline for when that might happen.

The future of the development could also hinge on whether the Fargo Park District is willing to make its Edgewood Golf Course access road – Golf Course Avenue – into a public street.

The Park Board is set to discuss the plans March 11, said Jim Larson, the district’s director of finance and human resources.

Larson said the park facilities committee met Wednesday and recommended the full board approve the idea of asking the city to plat Golf Course Avenue as a public road.

“That road is used as public road most of the time anyways because we have a restaurant that’s open year-round,” Larson said. “We have a golf course that’s very busy.”

In exchange for making the Edgewood road a public street, the developer will give about an acre of land to the park district on the northeast edge of the site to be used as a putting green and/or chipping practice area, Larson said.

“While that’s a plus, what we’re really getting, though, is that road will now become a city of Fargo road. They will maintain it,” he said.

Planning Director Jim Gilmour said the golf course access road will need to be improved to handle more residential traffic for the new development. It’s also a critical road during spring floods because the city uses it as a foundation for temporary levees, he said.

“Maybe not immediately, but if the road needs to be improved, it’d be nice to elevate it or have a dike on one side so we have one less place to put up (temporary levees),” Gilmour said.

Then the question becomes who pays for those improvements, he said.

“(The park district) won’t want to pay for the whole thing, and the developer won’t want to pay for the whole thing and the city won’t want to pay for the whole thing,” Gilmour said. “So I think that’s probably the biggest issue.”

Last year, the developer proposed a land swap with the park district, where the developer would get some land in Rabanus Park in south Fargo in exchange for the district getting some of the seminary land. Larson said that deal is now “totally gone.”

“The land (in Rabanus) was originally donated to be park, so the park district did not feel comfortable selling that land to somebody else,” Larson said.

Monte Kjos, president of Comstock Land Co., told The Forum in October that his plans to develop the seminary site would push forward regardless of the land swap. Kjos could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Larson said he doesn’t think traffic on the Edgewood access road would be severely affected by a 60-home development.

City Planner Joe Nigg agreed, and said the development fits with the city’s comprehensive planning goals because it uses existing infrastructure.

“I think it’s a great infill project if it can come to fruition,” he said.

Gilmour said some residents living on 35th Avenue Northeast or Par Street Northeast who are used to having big empty spaces in their backyards might have issues with the proposal.

“Now you’ve got a bunch of new neighbors driving by,” he said.

Public comments on the proposed development can be sent to the Planning Department at 200 3rd St. N. or via email at planning@cityoffargo.com.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518