Planning ahead: City officials consider ways to deal with expected growthCity officials and leaders are now exploring ways to cope with possible levels of growth unseen in the community for decades. A planned ethanol plant, a planned ammonia-manufacturing facility and the planned start of operations at the coal-fired Spiritwood Station could bring hundreds of additional residents to the area in the next years.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
City officials and leaders are now exploring ways to cope with possible levels of growth unseen in the community for decades. A planned ethanol plant, a planned ammonia-manufacturing facility and the planned start of operations at the coal-fired Spiritwood Station could bring hundreds of additional residents to the area in the next years.
This task includes both short-term and long-term planning, according to Harley Trefz, chairman of the Jamestown Planning Commission.
“We need to look at all phases of planning,” he said. “That is important if we’re going to grow.”
Trefz said planning has often been done piecemeal and in reaction to proposed projects. He referred to the five or six industrial parks in and around Jamestown as an example.
“All good ideas but with two or three entities each,” he said. “That’s not efficient and affects zoning of the land around the parks.”
Mayor Katie Andersen sees some immediate planning tasks to react to the housing needs of an anticipated 2,000 construction workers if the CHS Inc. Spiritwood Nitrogen Project is built. Projections from project leaders estimate as many as 800 workers could be on the job at any one time.
“In preparation for that temporary workforce we’re looking at crew camp ordinances and adult entertainment ordinances,” Andersen said. “There are safety concerns. We need to house 1,500 to 2,000 workers so it doesn’t impact Jamestown’s quality of life.”
Andersen said the city is also addressing ordinances to improve the city’s development climate.
“We’re trying to create a structure that is accommodating to developers so they want to be here,” she said. “The development ordinance has been pointed out as an obstacle to growth. With the pressure on the housing market anticipated, we have to grow.”
The City Council is scheduled to review a proposed ordinance to change the way the infrastructure of new developments is financed. Currently the developer is required to pay the costs of installing water and sewer infrastructure and raising the street to grade. Pavement and curb and gutter are than paid by the city and financed with special assessments against the property.
The proposal under consideration would combine all infrastructure costs and require the developer to pay 25 percent in advance and the rest could be financed by special assessments.
Andersen said any changes to the development ordinance would need to protect the taxpayers if developments do not materialize.
“The best way to protect the taxpayer is to make sure property is used at its highest value,” she said.
That would include annexing lands into Jamestown to encourage development.
“There are a handful of obstacles to annexation,” she said. “Zoning changes are always not easy.”
The difficulty of these processes is why Trefz and Andersen would like to see Jamestown gain the services of a professional planner.
“We need the services of a professional planer to rework the master plan,” Trefz said. “Someone to help us develop a long-range plan for the region.”
Trefz said part of the planner’s task would be to decide what infrastructure needs to be upgraded to meet growth requirements.
“We need somebody without a vested interest to look at those things objectively,” he said. “It needs to be done in such a way the taxpayer never gets stuck.”
Andersen said an outside consultant may be more efficient in the role than adding a planning position to the city’s staff.
“Those tasks are outside the scope of work of our assessors and engineers,” she said. “With a consultant we get a team of experts and only pay for the work they do.”
Andersen said a professional planner would look at development possibilities as much as 20 years in the future and try to position the city properly.
“There are always a lot of economic development irons in the fire,” she said. “We don’t think that all will come through but we want to be able to handle whatever does come our way. We need to look out far enough so we are prepared.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com