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City teaming up with FMCVB

After several years of not feeling the need for such a union, the city of West Fargo is finally joining forces with the Fargo Moorhead Convention and Visitors' Bureau.

According to the terms of the agreement approved unanimously by West Fargo City Commissioners Monday night, effective Sept. 1 all taxes collected through the West Fargo's Visitor Promotion fund will be going directly to the Fargo Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau for the purpose of promoting tourism and related activities in the community.

West Fargo has handled their own funds through a Visitors Committee since May of 1990 when a two percent lodging tax on gross receipts of the city's motels was put in place for promotion to help encourage and attract visitors to the community. In 2005, the city approved an additional one percent increase for capital funds, the maximum allowed by state law, to bring in additional funding for further promotion.

At the time there were four motels, the Sunset, Super 8, Day's Inn (now Howard Johnson's) and the Hi-Ten. With the closing of the Hi-Ten now there are three; with two more to be added to the roster in 2014, the Aloft Hotel and Cambria Suites and convention center.

It is the latter two that are the catalysts for the current commitment of the funding to the CVB.

Mayor Rich Mattern said that the city had voted several years ago not to join until the city had more hotels. "Well now we have a hotel and conference center coming in and another on the agenda tonight. I think the timing is right."

Mattern said he had been in conversation with Charley Johnson, FMCVB President and CEO for the past couple of months regarding joining their group. After that discussion the West Fargo Visitors Committee on which Mattern serves voted to recommend joining the CVB. He asked fellow commissioners to support that move by approving the agreement and first reading of an ordinance outlining the details.

Johnson was present at the meeting to provide information and answer questions. He said if West Fargo voted to join, the promotion would start "as soon as humanly possible" by including the motels, restaurants and attractions on the CVB website and other promotional pieces as they are scheduled. He added that West Fargo would also qualify for grants under the capital fund criteria and festival funds for events; as well as have two members on the board of directors which would be expanded Sept. 1 from its present nine to 11. The city commission would be able to appoint one as a member and the second would be a business-related appointment selected by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce. Fargo and Moorhead also have the same representation.

Approximately $30,000 to $35,000 is collected through the tax annually. The fund currently sits at $97,000, which according to the terms of the agreement, will remain with the West Fargo Visitors Committee. The group will continue to do some of what they have done in the past -- dole out funds to the smaller groups that apply to help spur the success of their activities which are held in the community.

Collections this year through May sit at approximately $12,000 with funding so far this year allocated for the state firefighters convention set for this weekend; a sizeable donation to the economic development webpage design; and the WF Packatahnas Invitational Competition, just to name a few.

"The CVB won't fund these smaller events so the city has decided we will maintain the visitors committee and support these local shows using the $97,000," Brownlee said in an interview before the meeting. "When these dollars are used up the committee will be funded from another source if the city commission chooses to do so."

Mattern said he is excited about the action. "I always said that when we got our first hig hotel we would join the Visitors Bureau. Now we are not only getting one but two, so we are doing this just at the right time. There will be a lot of positives in promoting our hotels and our events."

Brownlee agreed,. "It only makes sense that now a convention center is coming to town that we join forces. The marketing the CVB can do with their entire budget compared to what we can do locally is tremendous, as far as trade shows, ad, brochures and flyers."

The board voted 5-0 to approve the agreement for West Fargo joining the FMCVB and first reading of ordinance No. 956 relating to the city lodging tax. The second reading is expected to be approved at the next meeting in two weeks.

Johnson said the Sept. 1 timeframe for the agreement really works really well since it is the beginning of the CVB's budget year. "We are really happy to have West Fargo joining us. It will be wonderful to be able to promote the whole community."

In other action, the Commission:

-approved second reading of Ordinance No. 962 relating to excise tax on telephone access lines and wireless service. The change increases the excise tax from $1 to $1.50 per month on each telephone access line and wireless service as defined in the ordinance; and after Dec. 31, 2013, prepaid wireless service won't be subject to the fee imposed.

-okayed second reading on the rezoning of North Pond at the Preserve 3rd Addition, Lot 7, Block 1, from agricultural to light commercial so retail commercial development can take place on the 2.3 acre parcel located west of Veterans Boulevard and on the north side of 26th Ave. E. The request was made by Rusty Goose Development LLP. The public hearing on this matter took place in February and action was requested now;

-approved a planned unit development amendment for increased signage to allow for a free standing sign for development on a 1.2 acre parcel west of 9th St. E. and on the south side of 13th Ave. E. per a request by Brent Olson. PUD was approved in 2007 for monument signs. The request was for 25 feet height, but was compromised down to to 20 ½ feet with 16 feet the allowable under the ordinance. It was also agreed that the actual signage would be located further east on the property to better align with commercial development to the north and provide a better view for residents across the street on Meyer Drive. Commissioners expressed concern about veering from the sign ordinance specifications, since so much time and effort went into arriving at and adopting criteria but after hearing City Planning Director Larry Weil speak about what falls under PUD zoning agreed to go along with the request;

-okayed a planned unit development amendment that will allow for the Aloft Hotel and a restaurant, yet to be determined, to be located at 925 19th Ave. E. per the request by Staysharpe. The 3.8 acre parcel is located south of 19th Ave. E. and east of 9th St. E. Weil said the facility is still a work in progress regarding sidewalk location on the site plan. Otherwise, he said not other issues were identified. A question was raised about overflow parking on residential streets in the area, but Weil said there were private drives involved and they would be monitored accordingly;

-granted a conditional use permit for a group child care facility that will allow for the care of up to 15 children for Maarja Krogh, at 328 Cherry Ct. She has been caring for 12 children with a provisional use permit, the 15 would be allowed as a conditional use. Approval carried the stipulations of an additional off-street parking space installed, a solid fence, and agreement with a six-month trial period to see how it goes. Resident support from those living adjacent was mixed, but Krogh said after she explained the situation, the concern diminished. She made the request because she cares for some disabled children and her licensing has to comply with state guidelines because the count is viewed differently;

-offered final plat approval for a replat of Oakridge 4th Addition, for sale and commercial development as requested by Osgood Investments. The 3.09 acre parcel is located west of Veterans Boulevard and south of 32nd Ave. E. Weil said that a funeral home and creamatorium has been considering the property for location;

-awarded the contract for Street Improvement District No. 2228, 9th St. W from 23rd Ave. W. to 30th Ave. W., to Dakota Underground Company, Fargo with a low bid $1,382,698.06. The engineer's estimate was $1,434,000.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place Monday, June 17, 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.