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Menards project on hold

Concerns raised by West Fargo residents Monday stalled Menards' expansion project. After more than an hour of commission and community comment, and two failed motions, the West Fargo City Commission decided 4-0 to table the 3.4-acre ex-pansion pr...

John Pierce

Concerns raised by West Fargo residents Monday stalled Menards' expansion project.

After more than an hour of commission and community comment, and two failed motions, the West Fargo City Commission decided 4-0 to table the 3.4-acre ex-pansion project for two weeks. Commissioner Bryan Schulz was not present.

Commissioners will meet with representatives from Menards and the neighborhood to determine if a compromise is possible.

The proposed expansion project is not what has caused the most controversy, but it has been the avenue residents are taking to raise their concerns about future development there.

The residents, primarily in West Berry condominiums on 10th Avenue East northeast of the store, are concerned about the remaining 9.6 acres on the east that Menards won't need and plans to sell. John Pierce, West Berry spokesman, said they fear the land will not be developed as it is intended in the city's land-use plan, which is medium-density residential or office park.

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Commissioner Brenda Warren made a motion to table the project because she thinks the commission can help the two sides find some middle ground.

"We owe this neighborhood something," Warren said. "We can have a win-win situation."

She suggested that Menards require a future buyer to follow the city's land-use plan for the 9.6 acres left over from the expansion project.

City Attorney Brian Neugebauer, however, said the city cannot ask landowners to restrict their property.

Warren's motion failed 2-2, with Mayor Rich Mattern and Commissioner Mark Simmons opposing the delay.

Simmons disagreed with what he called a strong-armed approach that binds Menards. His motion to approve the expansion project failed after it did not receive a second.

Facing a stalemate, commissioners agreed to reconsider tabling the project.

Not approving the expansion project could delay construction -- scheduled to start next month -- until next spring, said Robert Tess, a Menards spokesman.

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Menards proposes replacing the existing outdoor storage and staging area on the west with an outdoor garden center, relocating the customer entry gate to the east and building two warehouses on the northwest side.

The company plans to create a larger landscape buffer north and west of the 13th Avenue East home improvement store and replace dead trees to minimize the impact on the neighboring residential area.

To begin construction, Menards needs the city to rezone its land to Planned Unit Development from agricultural and amend the current land-use plan from medium-density residential or office park to retail commercial.

When West Berry homeowners purchased their homes, they said they expected a library to accommodate 3.71 of the acres Menards plans to sell. Cotter Corp., based in Denver, donated the land to the city several years ago, City Planner Larry Weil said.

Before the city sold the property to Menards, library leaders selected the land and other sites as potential places to build a new library, Weil said. West Fargo residents voted down the library proposal.

Cotter Corp. did not designate a use for the land.

That property is among the agricultural acreage Menards plans to sell.

Those 9.6 acres need to be rezoned before the land can be developed.

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The city's comprehensive plan would allow a change to medium-density residential or office park use for the land.

West Berry residents fear this commission or future commissions may deviate from that plan as they have for the expansion project.

Earlier this month, residents asked the Planning and Zoning Commission not to allow the remaining 9.6 acres of Menards' property to be zoned anything other than residential in the future.

Planning and zoning commissioners said they could not bind Menards, saying rezoning the acreage now would give residents less of a voice in the future. They unanimously approved the expansion project.

Tess said he does not expect the future buyer to deviate from the city's land-use plan.

He said the company will not sell the land for less than market value or put restrictions on the property, but he will meet with community representatives to discuss other options.

Weil recommended that the commission rezone the land to Planned Unit Development when a developer comes forward. This would safeguard the city and citizens, he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dawn Peake at (701) 241-5557

John Pierce

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