FARGO – The North Dakota State University Foundation's first meeting to plan a controversial student housing complex east of campus focused on avoiding potential conflicts of interest.
Jeff Volk, chairman of the property management committee, urged members to recuse themselves if they decide they would like to be considered as developers for a project along the 1600 block of University Drive and 12th Street North.
"I caution those of you that want to be on the other side of the table at the end to figure out where the conflict starts," Volk said. "It hasn't started yet, but as we move through the process, there's going to be a point in time where a conflict will be created."
The foundation now owns all but one house on that block and is planning to build a student housing complex there, given that the university's residence halls are packed and the president aims to grow the school's enrollment to 18,000.
Volk's comments were directed, in part, to developers Jim Roers and Bob Challey, who are trustees of the foundation and on the property management committee.
Challey urged Volk to not push away the committee members who have the most experience.
"I don't think the committee should try to exclude the expertise that's there, certainly in the early part of the process," Challey said.
Roers asked whether a conflict would begin at advising or voting, and Volk said he couldn't define it.
"The decision is not the committee's," he said. "The person that created the conflict has to figure it out and remove themselves from the conflict. They're the decision maker on that point."
The foundation's next step is creating a subcommittee to hire an owner's representative. An aggressive timeline would have the complex ready by August 2017, but August 2018 is "more probable," according to meeting materials.