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Neighbors raise health concern issue: City denies concrete crushing operation permit

West Fargo City Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to deny a conditional use permit that would allow for stockpiling of sand, gravel and fill dirt and other building materials, as well as periodic concrete crushing operations, in an area south of 7th Avenue Northeast, east of Center Street, with the south side of the property abutting the Burlington Northern Railroad property.

The request was made by Tom Martin of Key Contracting, who also proposed to construct a 12,000 square foot shop/office building on the north side of the property.

The West Fargo Planning and Zoning Commissioners had previously denied the Conditional Use Permit at their April 14 meeting for stockpiling and the crushing operation due to its impact on neighboring properties, but conditionally approved the request because it was consistent with city plans and ordinances in a Heavy Industrial District. Three stipulations were included with the approval, among them limiting the stockpile heights to 20 feet to minimize dust.

However, the 5-0 vote opposing the operation came from the City Commission after considerable discussion, including comments of opposition from residents living in the Evergreen Circle area approximately 550 feet away from the site, because of nuisance issues and health concerns especially for the elderly, young children and the animals.

Maurita Hess of Mapleton, whose mother lives in a residence south of the site, said she was concerned because of health issues, since her mother already suffers from a respiratory affliction requiring oxygen. She said if the proposal was approved, her mother would be restricted to the indoors because of blowing dust and other debris. "You're going to have a large group of residents who will have to contend with this forever," she said.

Another resident, Mark Berntson, said he didn't feel the crushing operation would be compatible with a residential neighborhood so close, adding he had researched other areas with similar operations and received negative feedback about dust issues, both inside and outside homes.

In written comments, City Business Development Director Dorinda Anderson said that she didn't feel that stockpiling and crushing concrete were the best uses for the area, that she was under the pretense it would be developed with buildings to help increase the City's tax base. (This reasoning because of the apparent purchase of the property from the City with the understanding it would be built up with more industrial buildings to increase the tax base.)

Martin said he felt it "unfortunate that a residential development is able to spring up near industrial." He said looking at the history of property he had purchased, it had been industrial in nature for 100 years, first owned by the railroad. "I urge you to go forward with the Planning and Zoning recommendation," he stated.

Mayor Rich Mattern said he agreed with Anderson over the intent for the property.

Before making the motion to deny the request, Commissioner Lou Bennett said he thought "the citizens should be given the same consideration" as those who opposed a similar crushing operation proposal presented last year in Sterling Industrial Park that was also voted down by the Commission.

In other action, the Commission:

-after an almost hourlong discussion, tabled a request for a Planned Unit Amendment and final plat approval of a townhouse development in Dakota Territory 11th Addition, located along 10th Avenue East and west of 17th Street East, until further discussion could take place between residents and the developer. Residents in the area opposed the plan presented by Jordahl Construction for a number of reasons, saying it wasn't compatible with area development and that it lacked adequate parking because of street versus alley issues;

-okayed second reading and final plat approval for Osgood 1st Addition rezoning from agricultural to single family dwellings;

-approved the final plat for Simpson's 5th Addition;

-agreed to rename Burlington Pond the Caroline Ruby Vetter Memorial Duck Pond in memory of the little West Fargo five-year-old with an avid affection for ducks, who passed away March 26. There will be a special plaque located at the pond, located off of 19th Ave. E. and Burlington Drive. Commissioner Bryan Schulz made the motion on behalf of the Fargo Marathon Committee, of which he is a member, noting the Committee would cover expenses associated with the action.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place at 5:30 p.m., Monday, May 5, in the Commission Chambers at West Fargo City Hall. All meetings are open to the public.