Grand Forks City Council leaders didn't vote on starting construction at Arbor Park on Monday night-but a measure they approved could lead to builders on the site soon.
City leaders voted 7-0 to authorize the city to start negotiations with Dakota Commercial and Development on a new building at Arbor Park, 15 S. Fourth St. The new structure, which would stand five stories tall, would house condominiums and commercial space and cover the majority of the park.
The proposal has been met with ire by the park's vocal supporters, but city leaders stressed at Monday night's meeting that the decision to start negotiations-which won't lead to construction without further council action-stands to do the city some good.
"I'm already on record saying I don't want to develop Arbor Park," said City Council President Dana Sande, who has pointed out its potential to add to downtown density and grow the local tax base without racking up big costs in infrastructure development. "I wish the whole city was a park, but then nobody would live here."
Negotiations on a future building site begin with figures included in the building proposal submitted to the city earlier this year, which include the sale of the land at Arbor Park for $1 as well as a 10-year, 100 percent property tax break for the site.
Council member Ken Vein, like other city leaders, stressed that Monday evening isn't the end of the road for discussion on the matter. Once negotiations are complete, city leaders will take up the issue once again.
"I think the council-we want to take it to this next step so we have more information about what this actually means," Vein said. "Then we'll come back and have the vote ... this continues to move that process along
The City Council voted 7-0 on its consent agenda to extend a standing agreement with Northern Plains Nitrogen to extend infrastructure and utilities to the NPN site should the $1.5 billion fertilizer plant project win the investment funding it needs to roll ahead.
City leaders also voted 7-0 to offer approval of a joint maintenance agreement for the Kennedy Bridge. The document outlines responsibilities for the North Dakota and Minnesota departments of transportation and both Grand Forks and East Grand Forks following the completion of the $23 million project, which is set to begin in 2017.
No construction costs are expected for Grand Forks, Feland said, though maintenance costs -- such as snow plowing or the electricity to power the lighting -- will be split with East Grand Forks once the project is finished.