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City moving forward with hotel complex

West Fargo City Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to move forward with plans for a hotel and conference center on Beaton Drive southwest of the corner of Ninth Street East and 19th Avenue East by approving first reading of the rezoning of Charleswood 29th Addition from agricultural to planned unit development to allow for the hotel complex.

The action came after renewed input and further discussion during a public hearing involving residents of The Villa located across from the site who expressed concerns about the facility being the correct usage for the property, as well as traffic and safety issues and whether or not there is need for a traffic study and possible traffic lights.

Senior Planner Steve Zimmer said the conference center and hotel does follow the city's comprehensive plan and the use is consistent with city plans and ordinances and what would be compatible in the area. In the 2000 plan, the area was designated as office park and again in 2007. In 2008, the commission approved a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) District with the intent and condition that a hotel and conference center needed to be developed in order for the TIF benefits to be extended.

Both Commissioner Mark Simmons and Mayor Rich Mattern interjected that previous talks going back several years had alluded to the possibility of a hotel complex in this neighborhood.

Zimmer added that city staff, developers and hotel officials had met with the two homeowners association presidents and residents living adjacent as directed at the previous meeting discussion. He said the hotel group and residents jointly discussed what they would like to see and at the end the residents felt their demands had been met.

Mike Tomasko, president of The Evergreens Estates homeowners association, comprised of 64 homes, told the board that he and fellow Evergreen residents are okay with the plan after meeting with parties involved. "They have addressed our concerns. We have been very pleased with the developer and owners and I think they have gone a long way in listening and in their willingness to be good neighbors."

Lisa Dirk, resident of Villa Parkway, who just assumed the lead position for The Villas homeowners association said their group had not been updated on any previous meetings by their former president who recently resigned.

She added when she purchased her home she wasn't

told of this usage, only that the area was intended for a smaller office park complex, that would include more low profile businesses and not big commercial magnitude. She asked the commission to think long and hard about approving the facility at this location. "Why is this the right place for this complex? And would this be an acceptable use if you live where I live?"

She added that she was only speaking for herself and not the homeowners association noting that the group hasn't yet come to a consensus saying they will be meeting Nov. 12.

Commissioner Mike Thorstad asked whether any comments had been received from school district officials with Cheney Middle School also located across from the property.

Zimmer said a letter stating the district understood that the area could be developed as future commercial not opposing it but not taking a stand either way, but also voicing concern about alcohol being connected to the project.

Before making the motion to approve the rezoning request so the project could move forward Commissioner Simmons said he was disappointed in the realtors or developers for not telling the residents about what was going on, adding they should have known about it because of the creation of the TIF district. Simmons said he was "not willing to not let the this (the hotel/conference center) move forward. I move to put it on first reading and work with these individuals (residents) as we move forward. Commissioner Duane Hanson provided the second and all commissioners voted in favor.

Commissioners also saw the launching Monday night of the cit'ys new economic development website which has a link at the top to the city's home page

City Development director Mark Vaux said the site is part of a multi-tiered plan that will be blended together in three phases, also including the the a website also previewed Monday night featuring informational value pertaining to non profit and charitable groups; and the third phase currently in the planning stages involving a complete redo of the existing city of west fargo website.

Vaux said the changes are a "work in progress," praising the association with consulting firm InHouse Advertising for their expertise, as well as City IT Director James Anderson and City Finance Director Tina Gustafson.

The next regularly scheduled West Fargo City Commission meeting will take place Monday, Nov. 19 at 5:30 p.m. in the commission chambers at West Fargo City Hall. All meetings are open to the public.