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Property tax exemption program under review

A request from West Fargo Car Clinic for a property tax exemption from the city of West Fargo was a 'no go' Monday night after a motion to approve the exemption died for a lack of second.

The same request was presented to the West Fargo City Commission two weeks ago and was tabled for further discussion and review by the West Fargo Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC).

Chris Schmidt, owner of West Fargo Car Clinic, which presently does business on the corner of Main Avenue and Center Street, wants to construct a new facility on property in the southwest corner of I-94 and Sheyenne Street because they have outgrown the space they have operated at since 2005. The new site would include a 5,400 square foot building with eight bays at a projected cost of $800,000.

Schmidt projects in a five-year time span to increase employees and grow annual revenues.

During a public hearing period for the request, city staff heard from three competitors of West Fargo Car Clinic, two of which were concerned about the company gaining an unfair advantage over there's. One was the recipient of a Renaissance Zone incentive a few years ago and the other business said they made a similar request when they located in West Fargo and were told there weren't any incentives his business was eligible for. The latter said he didn't feel the exemption should be granted since he didn't receive any and that incentives should go only to new businesses coming in from out of town and not to existing West Fargo companies.

Taking this all into account, the EDAC approved a motion in favor of the request at their May 2 meeting, with a conditional recommendation that the commission recognize competition exists and give full consideration to that. The committee said they had a primary concern of giving incentives to a retail/service related business and the precedence it would set; however, they noted they didn't think it was an unfair advantage as the property tax exemption is a request any business could make should they decide to make a major investment in their operation.

When the item was tabled two weeks ago it was turned back to the EDAC for further review before being brought back to the commission Monday night with the same recommendation: a conditional approval noting that competition exists and to give full consideration to that.

Mark Vaux, director of economic development and community services for the city, told commissioners that he was reviewing what Fargo was doing for similar requests in the hopes to come up with a solid plan that would be referred to in the future.

Following a public hearing on the matter, Commissioner Lou Bennett, citing the approval would increase employment and the tax base, made a motion to approve the request, but no one offered a second. Commissioners Duane Hanson, Mike Thorstad and Mayor Rich Mattern were in attendance but Commissioner Mark Simmons was absent.

The Commission also advised staff to continue reviewing the program and develop a plan that would work. At that time, those applying would have the ability to come back with their request.

In other action, the commission:

-Approved a five-year remodeling exemption for Donald and Dyan Clemens for improvements completed on their residence at 722 12th Ave. E. The home was originally built in 1983, with the work involving new ceilings, flooring and lighting, updating the kitchen and bathroom with new cabinetry and sinks, new carpeting in all three bedrooms, updated doors and refinished walls. The work brought the value of the property up from $128,100 to $153,200, with the exemption based on the improvement value. The yearly tax savings will amount to $450.

-gave re-approval of the final plat for Shadow Creek 2nd Addition to subdivide and rezone for simple family development, with the condition that the developer install a solid fence along 32nd Avenue East. The original plat was approved by the commission in September of 2011. The almost ten-acre parcel is located between 2nd Street East and the Sheyenne River and south of 32nd Avenue East.

-approved second and final reading of Ordinance No. 924 relating to the number of Planning Commission members appointed and term of office. The amendment will allow for eight members instead of seven with an added one from the extraterritorial area because of the recent documented increase in population over the 26,000 mark;

-approved a variance agreement with Beverly Hertzelle at 507 Garden Ave. NW, allowing a retention wall to remain in its present location; the owner to place rocks and gravel, maintain her sump pump as well as her mailbox on city right of way, with the city reserving the right to vacate the property if it becomes necessary to install a sidewalk. Hertzelle must also sod the remaining part of the city right of way by Sept. 25, 2012 as well as maintain it.

-following a series of public hearings approved first reading of rezoning of Montgomery Homestead 1st Addition from Limited Multiple Dwellings to Planned United Development, first reading of rezoning of Shadow Creek 3rd Addition from agricultural to single family dwellings, and first reading and rezoning of South Pond at the Preserve 5th Addition from agricultural to light commercial. Developers want to subdivide and rezone 6.45 acre parcel in Montgomery Homestead, located south of 32nd Avenue West, west of 9th Street West and north of 32nd Avenue West and Aurora Elementary School for a multiple family development. In Shadow Creek, located west of Veterans Boulevard on the south side of 36th Avenue East, south of the Shadow Wood development, the request is to subdivide and rezone the 31.98 acre parcel for single family development. Both Commissioners Thorstad and Hanson stressed the need to look at installing a sidewalk so the pedestrian flow works better for students in getting them more easily and safety to the school; as well as take a thorough look at traffic planning. The sidewalk issue was referenced as a part of the motion. At South Pond at the Preserve, Rusty Goose developers want to plat and zone the 1.96 acre parcel located west of Veterans Boulevard and south of 31st Avenue East for commercial development.

-made a motion to approve the revised district and the Resolution of Necessity so work can begin on Street Improvement District No. 2224, involving the overlay of the Tintes area streets. Residents living in the area will be notified of the work and provided an estimate of special assessment costs for their property. The contract is expected to be awarded in August with work to be completed yet this year. This work is part of ongoing maintenance that will focus on other parts of town following the Tintes project;

-awarded the contract for Street Improvement District No. 2220, the Veterans Boulevard and 23rd Avenue East traffic signal to Strata Corp., Grand Forks, with a low bid of $256,666. Engineer's estimate for the work was $210,000. The signal, which is by the new Costco location, is expected to be completed by November.

-awarded the contract for Sewer, Water and Storm Improvement District No. 1241, Montgomery Homestead First Addition, to Geo. E. Haggart, Inc., Fargo, with a low bid of $255,957.50. Engineers estimate was $335,000.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place Monday, July 16 at 5:30 p.m. in the Commission Chamber at West Fargo City Hall, 800 4th Ave. E. All meetings are open to the public.