With a looming deadline, once-contentious north Fargo townhouse project nears completion
The townhomes, meant to buffer a multi-story apartment complex in the Roosevelt neighborhood near NDSU, were the subject of a spat between the developer and a city commissioner.
FARGO — A deadline is drawing near for a prominent developer to complete a once-contentious northside townhouse project and avoid penalties from the city of Fargo.
But Jim Roers, CEO of Roers Development, said there won’t be a problem finishing the townhomes, two of which are listed for sale at nearly $400,000.
The seven townhomes are meant to be a buffer in a years-long, full-block development in the Roosevelt neighborhood next to North Dakota State University.
The project became the focus of a public spat in May of 2022 between Jim Roers and Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn , after the townhomes weren’t finished by the end of 2021.
Roers said the project will meet the latest May 31 deadline, established last August in a settlement agreement with the city.
Under that agreement, Roers would incur fees of $300 per day per unfinished townhome, with a maximum penalty of $2,100 per day if the project didn’t have a certificate of occupancy by then.
“I never questioned that we would get it done on time… I just didn't need a gun held to my head,” Roers said.
Piepkorn said he had no comment on the townhouse project at this time.
Jim Gilmour, director of strategic planning for the city, toured the townhomes with a city inspector on Thursday, May 18, along with Roers and Mayor Tim Mahoney, and said they appear to be on schedule for a certificate of occupancy next week.
The only significant work remaining is installation of sinks and countertops, some electrical hookups and some plumbing fixtures, he said.
Gilmour said a certificate of occupancy means a dwelling is safe to occupy, and can be issued even if certain features, such as painting or flooring aren’t complete, he said.
Nearly a block of single-family homes were torn down to make way for the project, and Fargo City Commissioner John Strand said previously that extensive negotiation was required with the neighborhood.
Strand said it’s good to know the townhomes are near completion.
“I’m just relieved that we can all put that behind us,” he said.
As for the near $400,000 asking price for the townhomes, Jim Laschkewitsch with the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association said there’s no judgment.
“If it’s that much money, and that's what the market will bear… the owner has the right to sell it for that,” Laschkewitsch said.
Roers said he’s happy with how the townhomes turned out and thinks neighbors will be pleased.
“With what little space we had, I think we made very, very good use of a floor plan that makes a functional home,” Roers said.
The 1,855-square-foot townhomes have three bedrooms and three bathrooms.
The main floor is designed as an open concept with a large kitchen, custom cabinets and stone countertops, and each townhome has a single attached garage stall, according to its listing.
There is also a homeowners association fee of $200 per month.
In July 2019, the Fargo City Commission approved a property tax break for Roers to build an 85-unit apartment complex and seven townhomes south of the St. Paul's Newman Center project, ending a controversy over tax increment financing.
In the years that followed, the Newman Center project and The View apartments at 1113 N. University Drive were built, but the space on the southeast corner of the block for the townhomes remained empty.
On May 2, 2022, city commissioners took Roers to task, saying he broke agreements with the city and the Roosevelt neighborhood by failing to build the townhomes as a buffer from the five-story apartment complex.
Piepkorn delivered the harshest criticism, repeatedly calling Roers a liar who never intended to build the townhomes.
Meanwhile, Roers asked for more time to build the townhomes, blaming congestion in the area and skyrocketing materials costs for the delays.
A few weeks later, it appeared the matter could be headed to court after a flurry of meetings between city officials, Roers and his attorney.
Then on May 31, 2022, the City Commission voted to send a notice to the Roers company that it was in default of a developer's agreement because the townhomes hadn’t been built.
In mid-June, Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said an agreement for Roers Development to receive a nearly $1 million tax incentive may have to be renegotiated because the project was not finished on time.
But in August of last year, the city and Roers Development reached a settlement agreement, which gave Roers until May 31, 2023 to complete the townhomes but called for financial penalties if they weren’t done.
While two of the townhomes have a listing price of $395,000, prices for the remaining five units haven’t been determined at this time, said Heidi Knutson, vice president of marketing at Roers Development.
She said none of the townhomes have yet been purchased but there are interested parties.