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City consultants unveil concepts for West Fargo development plan

WEST FARGO -- After a nearly weeklong "Planapalooza," which was a series of community input sessions for the city's comprehensive planning, consultants found residents are mostly interested in reducing special assessments while building the city.

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Brian Wright, founder and lead planner of Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative leads the West Fargo's comprehensive planning process on April 25, 2017. Wendy Reuer / The Forum

WEST FARGO - After a nearly weeklong "Planapalooza," which was a series of community input sessions for the city's comprehensive planning, consultants found residents are mostly interested in reducing special assessments while building the city.

Planapalooza, a trademarked event organized by consulting firm Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative, was designed to help West Fargo city and parks leaders create a comprehensive plan for future development. At a Planapalooza closing event Tuesday, April 25, Brian Wright, founder and lead planner of the Tennessee-based consulting firm said talk of special assessments was something that repeatedly came up from resident in the last week.

"If we heard one thing this week, we heard a thousand times about specials," Wright said.

Wright said his firm found that right now the city has about $200 million of outstanding specials. There are about $24 million in specials coming down the pipeline, he said.

The lowest special assessment they saw was $16 and the highest was $3.8 million. Most of the special assessments were in the southern part of city and along the Main Avenue corridor.

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Wright said his firm wants to find ways to reduce those special assessments as it completes the plan. One way to do that is to decrease the size of roads, Smaller roads are cheaper to build, he said. Another way would be to put higher density housing in the areas that will have special assessments, although multifamily housing is not necessarily popular with residents.

About 67 percent of housing in West Fargo is single family homes and 29 percent is multifamily, a number much lower than most residents thought, Wright said.

TPUDC consultants unveiled just a few concepts Tuesday that the firm has created so far from community input and its own research. For example, TPUDC will suggest ways to bring a community gathering place or usable downtown to West Fargo, which was also a common concept brought up by residents.

With construction ongoing on the $20 million Sheyenne Plaza in the 300 block of Sheyenne Street, building a park and amenities in the area could revitalize the area, TPUDC suggested expanding amenities in that area north to Armour Park, which is near Second Avenue Northwest and Fifth Street Northwest.

Wright unveiled a plan that would connect Sheyenne south of main to the existing park, but add some upgrades to the park such as updating side streets with small multihousing and adding a pedestrian bridge to the park. Wright said upgrading the area could create a revitalized downtown or city heart.

Wright also focused on future housing developments. Wright said the majority of homes built in West Fargo have a street-facing garage that does not promote front porch living and neighborhood connectivity. Wright suggests the city ask developers start building homes that have individual character, with front porches instead of just garages. Neighborhood developments should include good walkability and nearby neighborhood shops that promote a sense of community.

Green space is also recommended but the consultants said the city is doing well when planning parks, according to residents.

"The parks are incredibly well distributed throughout the city," Wright said.

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Planapalooza started with a Thursday, April 20, kickoff event followed by a series of discussions over the weekend at City Hall focused on specific topics to help develop plans. An open studio was set up at City Hall for residents to stop in anytime.

Sessions were well-attended, with more than 200 attending over the week, said city spokeswoman Melissa Richard.

"Every event we've had, we've seen new faces," she said.

Residents can still offer input through the website www.wf2point0.com .

TPUC will finalize recommendations for the city's comprehensive plan later this year.

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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