West Fargo city, school district consider partnership for new development

West Fargo Public Schools would contribute land around the West Fargo Sports Arena

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West Fargo City Hall.
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WEST FARGO — The West Fargo City Commission and West Fargo Public Schools plan to partner on a plan for development near the West Fargo Sports Arena and The Lights that could bring more business to the city and provide the school district with a third sheet of ice.

On Monday, June 20, the West Fargo City Commission approved a joint powers agreement with the school district to brainstorm development ideas. The agreement was passed on a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Eric Gjerdevig and Brad Olson voting against the measure.

The two commissioners who voted against the measure are concerned that a joint powers agreement will lead to additional money being spent to develop the area.

City Attorney John Shockley said the school district would likely contribute the land that is located west of the West Fargo Sports Arena and the city-owned Essentia Health Plaza at the Lights.

"So, that by itself is a huge investment by the school district," Shockley said.


The city and school district would then seek out a developer to present a plan that could best use the area around the two event centers.

"Everybody thought this would be a good idea to really investigate," Commissioner Mark Simmons said.

The West Fargo Sports Arena, which has two sheets of ice, is owned by the West Fargo School District, while the Essentia Health Plaza at the Lights is owned by the city. Both facilities are operated by the nonprofit West Fargo Events.

The Lights, a residential and commercial multiplex is owned by Epic Companies, which was granted a tax increment finance district to develop the original project.

The joint powers agreement would include three appointed members from the city commission and three appointees from the school district. The appointees would then select a president to preside over meetings and only vote in event of a tie.

Simmons argued that if the school district plans to sell the land to a developer, working with city on planning would add to the city tax base, as the school district currently does not have to pay property taxes on the land, although the school district can be charged special assessments.

"This would get the land back on the tax rolls," Simmons said. "We'd recoup our costs from whatever development goes there."

However, Gjerdevig argued, the city has already invested about $20 million in that area between tax breaks for The Lights and the city-owned parking ramp.


"It makes me nervous when we don't know what the cost might be," he said. "I'd love to see something happen there, but my view is the city has contributed enough financially to that area and we need to start watching it."

Olson pointed out that development in the area is already happening without any city investment. He said the school district could sell its land to a developer that could imagine a new use for the area without any city contribution.

The Fargo-Moorhead Sertoma Club operated the Holiday Lights display for more than 20 years in Lindenwood Park in Fargo.

Readers can reach West Fargo editor Wendy Reuer at or 701-241-5530 . Follow her on Twitter @ForumWendy .

Related Topics: WEST FARGO
As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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