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Development at Grand Forks' West Elementary site moves forward

The redevelopment project on the former West Elementary School site prompted concerns over the number of rentals in a neighborhood.

West Elementary
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GRAND FORKS — A redevelopment project on the north end of Grand Forks is moving forward with plans to start construction in the spring now that it has received final approval for rezoning and re-platting of the West Elementary Resubdivision .

The project, which entails the construction of 11 single-family houses on the corner of Sixth Avenue North and North 25th Street, raised some concerns when first discussed at a Dec. 20 City Council meeting. The issue was whether the houses will be rented and how more rentals might impact the neighborhood.

The final approval for rezoning and re-platting came later, during the Jan. 18 City Council meeting.

In December, Ward 2 council member Katie Dachtler told other council members the concerns she heard from people in the neighborhood. Dachtler said many houses around UND are rentals and the possibility of 11 more would possibly cause more problems.

Katie Dachtler
Katie Dachtler

“Looking at this development as it is currently proposed, that’s a significant impact it would have on that neighborhood that I don’t think has really been thought about other than this would be development in the West (Elementary) area,” Dachtler said during the meeting.

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With rental houses comes the concern for parking, which Dachtler said is “an ongoing conversation in my ward.” Dachtler said she already sees problems with parking in the surrounding neighborhoods and the additional 11 houses could add to the burden.

“We have a significant problem of people parking on lawns in our neighborhoods and all over the place and that is actually a strike-able offense within our current rental ordinances, but I don’t believe it is actually being enforced,” Dachtler said.

During the December council meeting, City Planner Ryan Brooks was asked to look into whether zoning could limit the number of rentals in a neighborhood.

“I think we need to be intentional on how we’re looking at developing our city,” Dachtler told council members. “The north end isn’t just a throwaway neighborhood.”

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The project went through two Planning and Zoning Commission meetings along with two City Council meetings throughout December and January, being passed through all four. While members of the Planning and Zoning Commission discussed whether they could cap the number of rentals in a neighborhood during their Jan. 5 meeting, it was agreed that doing so would restrict the type of housing available.

Brooks gave an additional update on whether there can be a restriction, telling the Herald that the Planning and Zoning Commission doesn’t recommend restricting the number of rentals in any neighborhood. Whether the 11 houses will be rented or owner-occupied units, Brooks said it’s “impossible for us to dictate,” though he said the developer is open to selling the houses.

In regard to concerns about parking in the neighborhood, Brooks said all 11 houses will have driveways and garages. The houses will have off-street parking as well, except for three houses planned to be built along Columbia Court Lane, where off-street parking will be difficult. Brooks said those three houses will have longer driveways.

West Elementary School closed in February of 2020 after unhealthy levels of radon were detected in parts of the building. The School Board voted to permanently close West in March 2021, due to the cost of repairing or replacing infrastructure.

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The property was sold to Oxford Realty and Premiere Homes & Builders for $150,000 this past fall.

Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 719-235-8640 or MArbegast@gfherald.com.

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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