Deadline for gathering space property is risky

News this week that the City of Minot is considering creating timeline for property acquisition for the proposed downtown gathering space is a dilemma, one with contrasting points of view.

The gathering space, funded by Resilience money as part of the city’s overall plan approved by HUD, has been slowed down because of difficulty in acquiring the necessary parcels for site development.

The city is actively negotiating on three parcels. Owners of two parcels rejected an initial offer. The city also is in discussion with Canadian Pacific Railroad about a small parcel it owns. A purchase agreement was reached on a narrow alleyway, but City Manager Tom Barry said no deal will be sealed until all properties are in agreement because unless all needed properties are obtained, the city can’t complete the project.

Furthermore there are federal rules that restrict how much the city can offer for a property.

Yet the federal grant must be spent by the end of the 2022 construction season.

Thus the dilemma.

The project’s steering committee is being asked to reconvene and include a possible deadline date as a topic of discussion.

Some in City Hall want a deadline set with an understanding that should the deadline for property acquisition come and go, the city will then move on to another site. Presumably the process would then begin all over again.

The site selected for the gathering place was chosen in a public vote. The public rejected the site initially selected by the city, just off Broadway in what is now a Trinity facility parking lot. As council member Josh Wolsky asserted, going back to the initial site won’t be well received. Additionally he worried that should that unfold it would appear to some that the city manipulated the process to return to the Broadway location, which seemed the original preference of the city but which lacked strong community support.

Should there be a hard deadline? Should the city risk a critical timeline to use the grant money by continuing negotiations with property owners? Are there any other options?

The gathering space is an important component of the Resilience Plan. Developing it in time is a challenge – and the correct road ahead is shrouded in uncertainty.

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