Developers are prepared to meet Minot's need for more housing in the coming years, representatives of a local engineering firm told Congressman Rick Berg, R-N.D., Tuesday.
Berg met with staff at Ackerman-Estvold Engineering & Management Consulting Tuesday morning to discuss housing and other developments. He met with Minot city planners, the downtown association and business leaders regarding plans to expand and upgrade the infrastructure for growth both in and around the city. He met with the base retention committee to discuss its activities.
A city consultant's population projection for Minot shows growth to 57,000 residents in 15 years, which could be a conservative forecast given the current population estimate of close to 50,000, said Ryan Ackerman, a principal in Ackerman-Estvold.
Jill Schramm/MDN • Ryan Ackerman of Ackerman-Estvold Engineering, right, discusses flood protection during a meeting with Congressman Rick Berg as staff members Sean Weeks, left, and Steve Eberle listen Tuesday.
"If it is 57,000, we have enough projects in the works to meet that population," he said.
Among larger projects in Minot are:
- Southwest Crossing, a 100-acre development in southwest Minot that would add about 400 dwelling units.
- 55th Crossing, a 270-acre development in southeast Minot that could add 1,800 dwelling units.
- Bolton Heights, west of the U.S. Highway 83 Bypass, a 520-acre development that could add 1,100 dwelling units.
Together, the developments could add an estimated 8,000 residents.
"The biggest barriers that we are seeing right now is the city's existing infrastructure is over-taxed," Ackerman said. "Basically, we are looking at massive trunk line upgrades. The city has been pretty good about getting out in front of it with sewer. Water is our next challenge."
Developers of Bolton Heights invested to extend services rather than wait for the city.
The City of Burlington has tacked a fee onto building permits to pay for the lagoon upgrades, water tanks and other infrastructure necessary with two new developments.
Davis Development and Highlands Ranch together will add about 2,300 housing units, potentially increasing Burlington's population up to five times.
Building more housing to even out supply and demand is the answer to creating more affordable housing in Minot, Berg said.
"We need to engage the private sector to get the housing going. It's really encouraging to see all the projects that are build-ready. They are not just on paper," he said.
He added that the public-private partnership needs to continue to get infrastructure extended so development can occur.
Alan Estvold, a principal in Ackerman-Estvold, said small towns don't have the ability to build infrastructure to keep up with populations that are doubling and tripling.
"They are desperate, actually," he said.
Berg and company representatives discussed ways to speed federal response time to address needs in fast-paced western North Dakota. Among solutions are streamlining environmental reviews that are required for federal funding of projects and passing more federal dollars through to the state, which can respond more quickly to local needs.
One of the best programs for small towns to help in funding construction is the federal Community Development Block Grant program, Estvold said.
"But it's so under-funded," he said. "We would like to see it expanded."
There was talk of the need for a seven-year highway bill rather than a two-year bill to help states and cities with planning. A reliable source of federal funding has been the problem, and Berg said a solution is to allocate money received from oil development on federal land to the highway fund.
"The amount of potential revenue on federal land that could be developed environmentally safe and sound could supplement what we are doing in the highway fund and enable us to get back to where we ought to be," he said.
Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, who is running against Berg for the U.S. Senate, also has proposed the federal government use the $318 million collected in oil royalties on federal land in North Dakota to assist city, county and tribal governments in their efforts to fund local infrastructure development, including improving roads.