City government is always something I have wanted to get involved in. I've felt a large push to get involved with the City of West Fargo since we purchased a home here in 2015. I started attending various Commission meetings, and was appointed to the Special Assessments Commission in 2018. I have learned a lot as I've gotten more involved.
Over the last year or so, I've talked with neighbors and developed an e-mail distribution list to communicate with the neighbors. Paige and I found that many of our neighbors did not know what was happening with the Downtown Sheyenne Street project (North Sheyenne Street Urban Reconstruction), despite notifications being sent out via newspapers and posted on social media. We raised concerns to the City is that there are many people within our neighborhood, and others, that aren't necessarily seeing what is posted on social media, or reading everything in the newspaper.
This is one of the reasons I am running for City Commission, as I want to improve what, and how, things are being communicated. One reason people don't get involved is that they don't know what is going on. Recently, my wife, Paige, and I created a flyer for a public hearing about the Mixed Use Downtown District ordinance change. We saw a large turnout. Typically, there are only a couple members of the public attending these Commission meetings, for that one meeting there were around twenty. If people are made aware of what is happening, then there will be community engagement.
One concern I've heard many times is that with zoning and development changes, there is a minimum 150 feet notification area. If a property is going to be re-zoned, then a letter is sent out to property owners within 150 foot radius of that property (or development). The concern that's been brought up many times is that Residents feel these changes affect them, despite them living beyond 150 feet. In discussions with the City, I've learned that each letter sent costs about $1.50 made up of postage, labor and materials. One thing I would like to see (and investigate further) is with any permits or rezoning requests, that there is an additional fee that would include some additional funds to help offset some of the costs for these letters being sent out. Doing this will allow more property owners to be included in the notification. The two times I've witnessed Residents raise concerns is with the Beaton Farm property and with a development that has been proposed in the Wilds across the street from a school. Both of these examples have a larger impact than the minimum 150 feet.
The more communication there is out there for Residents, the better informed they will be, and there will be fewer rumors and assumptions being made. As Commissioner, I will work with the City Staff to improve communication.