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MetroPlains project gets zone OK

The Jamestown City Council voted 4-1 Monday to include the former Essentia site in the city’s Renaissance Zone. MetorPlains is planning to develop senior and affordable housing at the location.

Renaissance zones provide tax incentives to developers who make improvements to commercial and residential properties. In Jamestown, much of the downtown area is part of the Renaissance Zone.

Designating the former Essentia site in the Renaissance Zone will allow MetroPlains to apply for income tax credits and property tax exemptions in the future. It would also allow it to apply for additional financing through the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency.

“How many spigots do we have to turn on with the taxpayer money?” Councl Dan Buchanan, who voted against the motion, asked. “As sure as night follows day, they will ask for the tax exemption.”

Buchanan said the project would not benefit the city but would cause increases to property taxes.

“Ratcheting taxes up one more time is a drain on the city’s economy,” he said.

Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen said the project benefited the city by revitalizing an underutilized property in Jamestown. The former Essentia building has sat vacant since the clinic moved to Jamestown Regional Medical Center in early 2013.

The James River Valley Library System had planned to purchase the location but was unable to get approval from the City Council or Stutsman County Commission. The library continued to show interest in the site until MetroPlains appeared before the City Council to say it had a sales agreement with Essentia for the property as part of its initial steps to secure Renaissance Zone approval.

Councilman Ramone Gumke said it was up to other agencies to determine what incentives would be made available to MetroPlains. The City Council would only have control of the property tax exemptions.

“They have already received $600,000 from the housing agency,” Buchanan said. “In effect, the state has mostly purchased the site for them.”

Buchanan said the Renaissance Zone tax exemptions were unnecessary for the project to succeed.

“It won’t benefit the city,” he said. “Everyone not similarly benefited will pay the taxes for it.”

A motion to provide a letter of support to MetroPlains, necessary for its financing requests with the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency, also passed on a 4-1 vote with Buchanan dissenting.

In other business, the City Council approved a letter of support for a 40-unit affordable senior housing project to be located northwest of Walmart. The letter of support was requested by project developer G.A. Haan Development, located in Michigan, as part of its financing request.

Ben Eide, director of development for G.A. Haan Development, said the project would include two- and three-bedroom units in a multifamily complex.

“The project will be funded under low income tax credits and conventional mortgages,” Eide said. “We would rent to households with 60 percent or less of the normal median income for the county.”

The motion to draft a letter of support passed on a 3-1 vote with Gumke absent and Buchanan dissenting.

The City Council also approved replacing four heaters in the solid waste baler facility with an estimated cost of $45,000 and approved the purchase of computer software for tracking utility infrastructure for the engineering department at a cost of $28,000.

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at