City of Minot seeks mixed-use development to infill neighborhoods

Jill Schramm/MDN The former YMCA, developed into condominiums and office space, is an example of mixed-use development that the City of Minot wants to encourage downtown, but the city council denied Renaissance Zone tax breaks after finding the developer ineligible.

Infill development, particularly through rehabilitation and mixed-use construction, is getting Minot’s attention as the city looks to achieve the affordable housing goals outlined in its National Disaster Resilience Plan.

The Minot City Council agreed Monday to use resilience program grant dollars to encourage infill development. The city will be seeking proposals from developers for new construction or substantial rehabilitation of rental housing within established neighborhoods. The properties would be dedicated for low- to moderate-income rents for a minimum of 20 years, and the ground floors must be available for commercial tenants.

The city has $8.5 million in resilience funds set aside for multi-family housing. The share of that money used for these infill projects would be in the form of a zero-interest, forgivable loan. To be eligible, a project owner would have to meet performance requirements in terms of affordable rents for 20 years and practice acceptable maintenance and operation as well as meet the rules of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The city council may select one or more projects to receive funding. The target is up to 40 units of affordable, multi-family rental housing that includes commercial space.

Council member Shannon Straight mentioned the concern he hears from the public about constructing more housing in a market that has plenty of vacancies. However, he said he does like the idea of rehabilitation, particularly to help people in east Minot who must wait longer for flood protection.

“I’d like if we could find some ways to carve out some niches within some of these programs where we might be able to afford those folks some opportunities to make some upgrades to their properties as well,” he said.

Asked about whether neighborhoods in the flood plain might be eligible for the program, John Zakian, resilience program manager, said structures would have to be built above flood level or elevated in case of substantial rehabilitation. Other parts of town are more likely candidates for the program.

“I am aware of interest both in the South Broadway corridor and also in downtown. Those conversations have been occurring over the last three or four months,” Zakian said.

One example of rehabbed, mixed-use development is getting a thumbs down from the council, though. The council on Monday denied a Renaissance Zone tax break on the condominium project in the former YMCA building in downtown Minot.

Cypress Assets had submitted a Renaissance Zone application in 2013 and received preliminary city and state approval. Last May, when Cypress Assets sought final approval, it was discovered there had been a change in ownership prior to the preliminary approvals. In May 2013, more than a 30 percent interest in the property was deeded to Frisch Investments. Cypress Assets also had assigned its ownership share to Cypress SB. The companies once were in good standing, but the latest information from Ward County indicated taxes now are delinquent, making the project ineligible for Renaissance benefits, the city reported.

The associated Cypress Development also is not in good standing with the City of Minot. Cypress Development had partnered with the city on the development of the two downtown parking ramps and now is in court with the city over responsibility for construction costs and what the city alleges is unpaid rent.

Cypress had acquired the YMCA building from St. Leo’s Church in 2010 to support the expansion of Eid Passport, later SureID. The developer made commercial space available on the lower levels and constructed living units on upper floors. The calculation of estimated tax benefit from the Renaissance Zone to the developer had been $310,982 over five years.

In other business:

® Mayor Shaun Sipma read a proclamation of condolence to the family of James Ruyak, former chief of construction for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ruyak had been a key figure in Minot in helping save the city during flood-prone years of the 1970s.

® The council agreed to sell at lot at 1901 E. Burdick Expy. for $15,000 to the North Dakota State Fair Association. The city purchased the lot in 2014 at pre-flood value of $48,800 and demolished a blighted structure.

® Because the $74.3 million federal resilience grant isn’t enough to fund all activities, the city had allocated $273,375 of the grant to developing other financing. The council agreed to contract with Strengthen ND for $20,000 from that allocation to have the nonprofit undertake a three-month, comprehensive data search for possible grant opportunities.

® The council added $60,000 to the $440,088 consulting contract of Houston Engineering to oversee completion of the 1.5 million gallon North Hill elevated water tower. The contractor, Landmark Structures, encountered difficulties during construction and had to extend the completion date from last summer to a projected finish this June. The city is withholding liquidated damages from the contractor to cover its additional costs, including to Houston Engineering, on the $3.36 million project.

® The council postponed a decision on a fence to keep nuisance animals out of the eight acres of cemetery leased by Rainbow Gardens for private gardens. The council asked Rainbow Gardens to come back with recommendations for funding a fence estimated to cost about $60,000.

® Plans are being made to send representatives, likely the city manager and mayor, to Norway in May to strengthen Sister City relations with Skien and share ideas on economic development, recycling and other topics. The last official trip was in 2015. The estimated cost is $10,000 to join a group from Minot State University already planning to travel to Norway. The city has not yet identified a source for the travel funds.

Council conversation continues on landfill, recycling

Tipping fees at the Minot landfill may need adjustment, but Minot City Council members decided they need more information at a meeting Monday.

The Minot landfill charges $40 a ton for municipal solid waste hauled in by private haulers and $30 a ton for inert waste. The average charge per ton in a comparison of 13 landfills in the state is $48.24 a ton for municipal waste and $39 for inert waste.

City Manager Tom Barry said a city has to consider the factors that are part of that price, which can vary from operation to operation. Fees should be based on cost of service rather than simply adjusted to fit an average, he said.

While the council saved the conversation of tipping fees for a later date, one young resident stood up to remind the city leaders not to forget about recycling.

Five-year-old Cora Vadell believes in recycling, and she and her mother, Kalyn Dewitt Vadell, spoke to the council to encourage the city not to give up on curbside recycling despite recent concerns about cost and logistics.

Cora began an advocate after watching a movie about recycling featuring a monkey named Curious George.

“Recycling is important because the planet already has a lot of trash on it, and if we don’t recycle the planet, there’s not enough room to live,” she told the council.

Dewitt Vadell said she understands the national recycling market is having difficulties.

“But I believe that there is significant evidence that the market is evolving. Reorganizing the flow of the recycles in the United States is going to re-establish the value of recyclables,” she said. “This isn’t the end of recycling.”

She urged the city to keep an eye on the recycling industry to see what develops. It may be that there’s a more sustainable plan that needs to be considered, she said.

“Let’s look at other options. There’s new technology coming out every day all over the world on what to do with recyclables. So it’s not like we don’t have other options. I understand we can’t do it right now, today, but let’s keep talking about it,” Vadell said.