MOORHEAD — Despite a flooding river flowing alongside Moorhead this spring, two housing projects near the Red River have been approved to proceed.
Some residents have raised concerns about the projects, but Moorhead City Planner and Zoning Administrator Robin Huston said the projects are either at flood protection levels or are protected by dikes. Huston said steps have been taken to make them even safer.
One project is the downtown Bolig Square project on the banks of the river, while the other is in the previously flood-prone Oakport area in what is now part of the city.
Huston said the five-story downtown Bolig Square with underground parking will be constructed in what has been a parking lot for years with part of it in the city's 100-year "flood fringe."
However, she said the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has approved the project, and it's also at the 44-foot flood protection level approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
One resident appeared at the city's planning and zoning commission to ask questions about how the project affects the adjacent floodway, but Huston said the questions were answered.
However, with the project being so close to the river, a special conditional-use permit had to be granted because some of the soils within the floodway may be disturbed and fill may be added.
Huston said the structure will be above the 44-foot flood stage, but an additional flood wall will protect the underground parking garage and its 23 spots.
In permits approved by the Moorhead City Council, documents said the planning commission reviewed issues such as susceptibility to flooding on the property, safety of the water supply and sanitary sewer, relationship to the city's floodplain management and safety of access to property in a flood.
City officials have praised the housing project by EPIC Holdings Inc. of West Fargo, which will include 40 apartments on the top four floors and a main floor of commercial space with the possibility for a restaurant.
Officials also said the apartments would offer a spectacular view of the Red River and a patio overlooking the river is planned on the first floor, offering the only downtown commercial deck with views of the river. Additionally, it would fill an open spot along the downtown riverfront skyline as other apartment buildings have been constructed to the south near Veterans Memorial Bridge.
The other project in far north Moorhead is called the Preserve on Broadway Addition, a 28-lot, single-family housing development that Huston said "is on the right side of the levees" and has also been approved by the DNR.
The development at 70th Avenue and Broadway Street Northwest near the Red River is fully protected by federally approved dikes "probably as well as any place between here and Winnipeg," said developer Jeff Schaumann, who lives only about a half mile from the lots.
Additional water protection involves plans for storm drainage into a next-door pond that was built by the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District as part of flood control efforts in the area, Huston said. Schaumann added that ponds were designed in the former Oakport Township with housing developments in mind.
Schaumann, who is developing the project with two other investors as Oakport Holdings LLC, said the lots will range in size from 1 acre to 3.5 acres.
He calls the rural-type area "unique" with trees and "space to spread your wings," but it's also in the city limits with all of its services provided.