Instead of approving or denying a development company's plans to build a 47-unit subdivision along U.S. Highway 83 in Eureka Township, the Ward County Commission at its Tuesday meeting voted to send it back to the county Planning and Zoning Commission for further review.
Commissioner John Fjeldahl was the lone dissenting vote.
The subdivision, which is being called Northrop Acres, would be located in the area north of 72nd Avenue Northwest and south of 86th Avenue Northwest, according to a bird's-eye view map provided in county documents. Eureka Township is located north of Minot and south of the Minot Air Force Base.
The homes are planned to be within the $200,000 to $280,000 range.
The inital plan was for 61 units composed of 1.5 acre lots and was first presented to the Ward County Planning and Zoning Commission at its Dec. 19, 2013, meeting. There was some public outcry over the plans at that meeting.
On Jan. 8 the Eureka Township Board recommended not approving the plans as is because rural housing lots, by local statute, can not be smaller than two acres to be buildable. So, the developers, ST Development, LLC, resubmitted the new plans, for 45 two-acre lots, on Jan. 16 to come into compliance. The company did not, however, submit a storm water management plan or a traffic study for the project, because they were seeking preliminary approval before moving ahead on those items.
Still, the planning commission voted unanimously to deny their recommendation for approval of the project.
On Feb. 11, though, the Eureka Township Board approved a zoning change for the property in question contingent upon the approval of the project from the county commission.
And that last fact was a new source of contention for some in attendance of Tuesday's meeting.
"I'm a member of Eureka and that's why I'm here. I attended the Eureka Township meetings, I watched this unfold from one end into the other and it was a shame," said Norman Livingston, an attendee to the meeting and a current county planning and zoning commissioner. "Now, whether the planning board voted their approval or not, just about everybody at the meeting and everybody at the last meeting and these people showed up at 20 below with the wind blowing to say 'This is not a good location, this is not a good spot for this development, both with the lay of the land, the entrance/exit to 83 and all of that.'"
He also said that when he and other planning and zoning commissioners voted not to recommend approval of the plat, he was under the impression that "we were voting down the two acre lot because the variance change had been withdrawn."
And, it had.
The company had changed from the 1.5 acre lot design to the two-acre lot design so that a planning variance was not needed to move forward with the project.
"Just the fact that our board, for whatever reason I cannot understand, stood up in front of people that said 'No,' and voted 'Yes,'" Livingston added, with obvious emotion, on the Eureka Township's board's zoning recommendation.
A letter written by another Eureka resident, Jay Livingston, also supported the idea of an overwhelming majority of the 40-50 community members in attendance at the meeting, although he estimated 80-90 percent of them raised their hands in solidarity against the subdivision.
"They're in a tough spot," said county engineer Dana Larsen, speaking on behalf of the township board's recommendation. "When you put together a set of ordinances and a developer comes forward with a plan and it meets all of the requirements, it's very challenging to say no when it meets all of those items. There's a reason, for safety, that if it doesn't meet the minimum requirements that you can say 'No.' But it would be very complicated that, if it meets all the requirments, and you're still turned down then you open yourself up to all sorts of legal issues."
"Why is that," asked commissioner Alan Walter, in response. "They would be following the will of the people, not the will of the developers. I know what you're saying, but that ain't the way government works."
Commission Chairman Jerome Gruenberg seemed to agree with the ruling because the new application did, in fact, meet requirements for subdivisions in the county.
The North Prairie Water District has written a memo saying that providing water to the subdivision is certainly feasible with only minor pipeline changes. The proximity to the Minot Air Force Base is also a plus, according to a memo, to ease the demand for housing for military personnel. The Minot Public School District has confirmed that they "are willing and able" to provide education for the subdivion's children, as the area was confirmed by their treasurer to be a part of their district.
Also, there are plans to provide land for a Minot Rural Fire Department substation, a development that Minot Rural Fire Chief Rex Weltikol has written in support of.