Letter: Residents are losing faith in Fargo's zoning process

Monday, Jan. 11, was bittersweet for the Roosevelt neighborhood as city commissioners approved the Newman Center proposal. Members of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association spent the past several months working to reach a compromise on a development that will drastically change our neighborhood. We were grateful for the opportunity to negotiate a better project for our community, but recognized how it could have been worse if we didn’t support the developer’s final proposal.

We welcomed the Newman Center’s plans for a new sanctuary, event space and faith-based housing. They are needed and we applauded their desire to expand. But we continued to have grave concerns about the market-rate housing. As a result of our discussions with Roers and the Diocese, this project now has less density, provides a buffer on the east side of 12th Street North with 11 townhomes and adds much needed green space.

We still have concerns over the density of this project. We have doubts over where overflow parking and traffic from the project will occur in our neighborhood. We feel that building five-story buildings next to single-family homes is not a good long-term planning practice. Ultimately our main concern is the precedent it sets.

There are many Fargo residents who reject this compromise as not in the best interests of any neighborhood and who vehemently disagree with this outcome. They feel that the City Commission should have rejected this plan as it is not best for our community. The Commission should have considered those voices as well because they are valid.

These concerns deserve the full attention of our City Commission as they are important to Fargo’s future direction. Approving demolition of single-family homes to be replaced by large-scale, high-density developments is not a sustainable, long-term solution for core neighborhoods. Lacking clear policy on future development is a disservice to the residents of neighborhoods that are working to make this a better community. We are left wondering what projects like this mean to our neighborhood

Commissioner Grindberg recently stated that a neighborhood zoning map needs modification as conditions change. Our position is zoning rules need to provide for orderly growth, predictability for all stakeholders and include appropriate transitions for the neighborhood. Zoning map changes need to be published, debated and approved before new proposals enter the development pipeline. We believe a pause in zoning modifications from further high-density projects is necessary in core neighborhoods until the city completes its 2019 core neighborhood plan.

Fargo homeowners see large gaps in the planning process that need to be addressed. We question the value of previous agreements Fargo has made with neighborhoods in the form of zoning ordinances and development codes. What is the purpose and value of our recently updated land use plan and neighborhood plan? Skirting the enforcement of residential protection standards by the overapplication of PUDs is problematic and short-sighted. We desire a process that respects the property rights of our neighborhood residents and that the city stand by its residential property owners.