A temporary housing park in southeast Minot moved closer to becoming a long-term solution for displaced flood survivors Monday.
The Minot Planning Commission is recommending the Minot City Council approve subdivisions and zoning changes that will allow for a portion of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's group housing site to remain as a mobile home park and for affordable housing to be built.
The commission's decision came over protest from neighbors, who objected based on drainage, traffic issues and dissatisfaction with having a mobile home park in their area.
About 450 households currently live in the FEMA group site known as Virgil Workman Village. FEMA will begin renting the units to occupants in January and will end its housing mission next June, when occupants will be able to buy their units. FEMA also is willing to donate unpurchased units to the Minot Housing Authority to operate as low-income housing through the federal voucher program, if the housing authority is able to obtain adequate funding for the program.
Nathan Smith, who owns the property, said he wants to provide an option for displaced residents once FEMA pulls out.
"There's no reason we should force them to leave when they have an existing setup right here that we can redevelop into something better than what it is today," he said.
Smith said he plans to begin developing 150 lots no longer used by FEMA with homes that truly are affordable. The full project includes 10 blocks known as 55th Crossing Second Addition.
The commission approved the change in zoning from agricultural to manufactured home park and single and double family residential with the conditions that master development plans are prepared and that traffic studies are completed.
Neighbors raised concern about the volume and speed of traffic on 55th Street and side streets.
"The traffic is horrendous," neighbor Joyce Kramer said.
City engineer Lance Meyer said the traffic study will identify problems and propose solutions that can be incorporated into plans as the development process continues. He noted that 55th Street Southeast is designated as a minor arterial that likely will require at least three-lane sections.
"The intention has always been that this roadway will carry a significant amount of traffic," he said.
Neighbor Sue Weston cited her concern for drainage from the proposed development through Countryside Villas, where she lives. The Ward County Water Resources Board has a contractor doing a rechannelizing project that will address drainage issues through Whispering Meadows, another neighboring subdivision, but Weston said that will not help the area where she lives.
Some residents simply don't want a mobile home park nearby.
Mike Enslin, a 55th Street resident, said neighbors are concerned about police attention that the FEMA park has drawn on numerous instances. Neighbors would prefer the land remain agricultural or be zoned for regular residential, he said.
Commissioners approved the project, knowing that many details are yet to come. Once drafted, the layout of the manufactured home park and plans for the housing subdivision will have to come to the commission for approval.
Commissioner Travis Zablotney said he doesn't want the city to act in haste because of deadlines set by the federal government for closing out its housing mission. The commission needs to be cautious in approving the details of the project so that decisions aren't made that will be regretted later, he said.
The city also is developing a policy that will cover FEMA units on private sites once the federal government ends its role and sells off units next June. It is expected that some residents still may be rebuilding their flooded homes next year. The policy will outline the conditions under which units will be allowed to stay.