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City to update house-moving policy

Fargo city officials voted unanimously Monday night to revise an outdated house moving ordinance in an attempt to clarify the city's role in the process and to hold movers more accountable.

Fargo city officials voted unanimously Monday night to revise an outdated house moving ordinance in an attempt to clarify the city's role in the process and to hold movers more accountable.

Possible changes include requiring a building permit at the future site of the house, having a public hearing so people along the moving route can be informed, and asking for a down payment of sorts to cover any potential damages from the move.

Some parts of the ordinance also need clarification, such as who has the final say on what route is taken and who is responsible for measuring clearance, said City Inspector Ron Strand.

Fargo's house moving policy came under scrutiny two weeks ago following a chaotic house relocation effort by Michael Trevino.

Trevino's recent moving of an old 1,734-square-foot house resulted in several large elm trees in Island Park having to be cut down -- a decision that angered many residents.

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"We have the opportunity to make some improvements," said City Administrator Pat Zavoral. "It seems like it might be time."

The ordinance hasn't been revised since 1965, with most of the changes made in 1952. At that time, the city's elm trees weren't as large and there weren't as many power lines to work around, Zavoral said.

But the idea of changing the process has some local house movers concerned.

Tim Bernstein, of Fargo's Valley Movers, said he would be upset if the city were to start requiring a performance bond, which was discussed as a possibility. A performance bond guarantees repayment to the city if something goes awry.

Bernstein said he already pays twice what he makes in a year for insurance costs and would have a difficult time doing business with such a requirement.

He said most movers in town do a good job and follow the city's rules. He urged city commissioners to talk to other house movers before making any decisions.

"I understand people are upset with what happened," Bernstein said. "But please do not go overboard with this. Talk to us."

Mayor Bruce Furness agreed to include house movers in future discussions about ordinance revisions.

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A modified ordinance will need to come back to the City Commission for approval.

In other business Monday, city commissioners:

- Approved a cabaret license for JT Cigarro so the Fargo business can host a one-man band and karaoke nights.

- Accepted the proposal from Advanced Engineering/ Black & Veatch of Moorhead to move forward with Fargo's water distribution system planning for the next 50 years.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Jo Almquist at (701) 241-5531

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