Letter: Working together for a stronger community

Fargo City Commissioner Tony Grindberg. Special to The Forum
Fargo City Commissioner Tony Grindberg. Special to The Forum

I would like to thank the leadership of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association, Roer’s Development, the city of Fargo Planning Department staff and Commissioner John Strand for their professionalism and respective efforts to reach a compromise for the Newman Center project. Recognizing that zoning was an integral part of reaching a compromise for the project, below is a snapshot of zoning and the city of Fargo’s recent efforts to address neighborhood concerns.

Zoning has been part of American municipal regulations since New York City passed the first zoning ordinance in the U.S. in 1916. Fargo’s was established in 1923. Fargo’s current zoning ordinance, known as the Land Development Code, provides a process to modify the zoning map in response to changing conditions. This process is conducted in a public forum, where anyone can make his or her views heard by the commissioners and the community. Ordinances provide findings that must be met in order for the city to support a zone change. One finding recognizes the relationship between changes in conditions and changes in zoning noted above. That finding states “the requested zone change is justified by a change in conditions since the previous zoning classification was established.”

One often thinks of the pattern of lines and colors on the zoning map as fixed. However, the zoning map is actually only a snapshot in time of the continuing change in the life and development of the city. Imagine a photograph of yourself and your family when you were five years old. A photograph of that same family group even a few years later will show noticeable changes—everyone’s older, children have grown, some new family members have appeared, and everyone’s needs have changed. Like the family photograph, a photograph of the city in years past compared to a current photograph would show a number of changes in the city’s size, types of land uses, population, and the needs and priorities of that population, and those changes drive changes to a zoning map.

City programs that work toward this goal include the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which provides loans and property tax exemptions to encourage owner-occupied home rehabilitation; the housing rehab program, which provides grants to help qualifying homeowners maintain their homes; and housing assistance programs, which can provide help with lower-interest home purchase loans, rent and heating assistance.

Additionally, the City Commission has been more active in zoning enforcement, including a more vigorous policy on the condemnation of dilapidated housing and, for 2019, creating a full-time code enforcement staff position. The Roosevelt-North

Dakota State University plan also recognizes the realities of student housing pressure in a neighborhood that was originally largely single-family residences. These residences have been used as rental property and even have been converted to multi-unit dwellings.

Changes in the zoning map are continuous in the life of a city and are in response to changes in conditions in that city. Working together will always achieve a better outcome for our community.