VELVA With calls coming in every day from people looking for housing, Velva isn't waiting for oil-field development to get any closer. The community is preparing now for what it believes is just around the corner.
"We don't need an oil well in our backyard to have growth. There's enough growth in the region. It's spilling over," said Randy Hauck, president of the Velva Community Development Corp.
On Tuesday, about 40 people attended a meeting of the Velva CDC and Association of Commerce to start the planning process. Gene Veeder, economic development director in Watford City, provided advice and ideas based on his community's experiences with oil-related growth.
Jill Schramm/MDN • Randy Hauck, president of the Velva Community Development Corp., visits with Gene Veeder, economic development director in Watford City, who presented information on coping with oil impact at a meeting in Velva Tuesday.
Velva Mayor Ken Fox said the calls that the city receives every day are from people who plan to be around a while and want permanent housing.
"They have heard about our schools. They have heard about what a good area this is," he said.
Minot, about 22 miles away, is Velva's best asset, attracting people who look to out-lying communities for housing, he said. Minot has offered its help in dealing with the growth.
"We just have to figure out what we need help with," Fox said.
That is the focus of the planning process that has started.
Hauck said Velva knows it needs housing. To get housing requires infrastructure, and that raises the question of how to pay for it, he said. So those are the three issues that will be front and center. The community is in an information-gathering mode, prompting the invitation to Veeder and likely to other resource people in the future.
The goal is to have enough information to call a community meeting in March to discuss where to go with that information, Hauck said.
"Our timing is perfect. I think we have a lot of opportunity because of what's happening around Minot," he said.
Fox said Velva also is well positioned. The school district recently passed a mill levy for a school addition. The town completed rebuilding its main street. The city is finishing a property annexation, some businesses are looking at expansions and a Main Street landmark is to be renovated and put back into service for apartments and business.
"We do have some problems with infrastructure," Fox said, noting many streets need resurfacing and the sewer system is aging.
Velva hopes to be considered for any infrastructure money that the Legislature may make available, but the community knows that assistance won't be available unless it has a plan, Fox said.
Maria Effertz-Hanson, director of the McHenry County Jobs Development Authority, said the spillover impacts of the oil industry are affecting other parts of the county, too. Granville wants to address its housing issues, and law enforcement agencies are bracing for a heavier call load, she said.
Veeder talked about Watford City's efforts to create a land-use plan and the successes that it has had in obtaining housing by working with Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota and with a developer with past ties to the area. He said Watford City's planning and ability to get a jump on the oil development has been key, and he encouraged Velva to plan now rather than try to react later.
"I can't imagine that you won't be impacted by this. You are probably not in the heart of it, but you don't need what we have," he said of activity so intense that's it is hard to manage. "We are behind the eight ball."