WEST FARGO — After the West Fargo City Commission met in executive session, Monday Feb. 1, commissioners voted 3-2 to move forward yet again with purchasing homes along Sheyenne Street to be used as a development incentive in the future.

The commission initially approved the purchase of five homes in the 500 block of Sheyenne Street north in December for a total of $1.15 million, or $200,000 plus $30,000 in relocation costs for each homeowner. Mayor Bernie Dardis and Commissioner Mark Simmons opposed the idea.

But after hearing from residents who were concerned the process has not been transparent enough and the purchase price may have been too high, among other concerns, Commissioner Mandy George made a motion at the city's last meeting that would have effectively stopped the process of the project. However, her motion failed after a lack of support.

On Monday, the commission entered into an executive session that was closed to the public to discuss with staff negotiations with the homeowners. After the roughly hour session, the commission returned to the public meeting and voted again to "direct staff to negotiate with property owners in the direction given in the executive session."

George, who asked to give a statement for the public's understanding, said, "We're not approving the current purchase agreements; we're going to continue to negotiate the current purchase agreements."

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Once the city purchases the homes, the buildings would be razed and the land could be used for parking during the summer when Sheyenne Street will be under construction. The land could then be sold and used as an incentive for future development, rather than traditional city incentives such as a tax increment financing district, or TIF. TIFs, which abate taxes for a number of years, have been used on many projects along Sheyenne Street in recent years and are often used in the metro area to attract new businesses.

The five homeowners had approached the city together and agreed all homes would be sold for $200,000 per home plus $30,000 in relocation costs for each home. In addition to the purchase price, clearing the land and other costs puts the city at an all-in price of $1.45 million, said Economic Development Director Lauren Orchard.

George, who has since heard many residents' complaints regarding the purchase price, said initially she felt this was a similar situation to eminent domain, where property owners are normally paid a higher premium by government entities. Each of the five homes have been listed for sale publicly and ranged in price from $140,000 to $190,000. She has also said appraisals must be done on the properties.