WEST FARGO —The city now plans to buy five homes along Sheyenne Street for their appraised value plus closing costs rather than a flat $230,000 for each home.

The West Fargo City Commission met in an executive session Monday, April 5 to discuss ongoing negotiations with five homeowners in the 500 block of Sheyenne Street. Economic Development Director Lauren Orchard has proposed buying the homes with economic development sales tax funds then razing the properties to be used as a temporary parking lot during the Sheyenne Street reconstruction project. The land would later be sold for development and would serve as an incentive from the city.

After a closed session, Monday, April 5, City Attorney John Shockley said a motion was agreed to offer the homes their individual appraisal costs plus closing costs as determined by the city's appraiser, on the condition all five properties accept the offers.

The motion passed on a three to two vote with Commissioner Mark Simmons and Mayor Bernie Dardis voting against the motion.

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, Orchard said.

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Shockley and City Administrator Tina Fisk said the amount of each appraisal could not be released as of April 5. In previous meetings, commissioners said the homes had previously been on the private market for different amounts, ranging from about $150,000 to $185,000.

The commission initially approved the purchase of five homes in December for a total of $1.15 million, or $200,000 plus $30,000 in relocation costs for each homeowner. Dardis and Simmons opposed the idea at that time, as well.

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 in late January that would have effectively stopped the process of the project. However, her motion failed after a lack of support.

So, on Feb. 1, the commission entered into executive session and returned with a vote "directing staff to negotiate with property owners in the direction given in the executive session."

If the city and residents proceed with the sale, it would not be the first time the city has bought and sold land as an economic development incentive. Commissioner Eric Gjerdevig has said the land sale as an incentive would cost the city and taxpayers less than granting a future developer tax incentives.