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Population, traffic growth concerns for Dickinson comprehensive plan

Bob Shannon, Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson project manager for "Dickinson 2035: Roadmap to the Future," talks to Dickinson residents Leona and Boniface Knopik about transportation needs Thursday during the open house at the Badlands Activities Center. Strategies were discussed to address issues regarding housing, transportation and land use.

Strategies are starting to come to the surface for a comprehensive plan that could help Dickinson officials guide the city into the future.

"There are about 35,000 jobs directly in the oil and gas industry in the state," said Bob Shannon, Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson project manager. "That is forecast to grow from 45,000 ... to 70,000 jobs. There are going to be outside influences changing the town whether you want it to change or not."

Dickinson residents and officials met for the third "Dickinson 2035: Roadmap to the Future" public input meeting and open house Thursday at the Badlands Activities Center. Bismarck engineering company Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson discussed strategies that could be used to address concerns that have followed growth from an oil boom in western North Dakota.

"This is a working draft," KL&J planner Scott Pickett said. "It will be a working draft for a while yet."

While he said the transportation plan is behind, Shannon said transportation is one of the biggest concerns.

"We have a lot of traffic going through the heart of town on Highway 22," he said. "Forty percent of the crashes are on Highway 22. That tells me there is something we can do to make that route safer."

Shannon said city and state officials are looking at ways of getting traffic out of town, including building a bypass.

KL&J community planner John How said housing has also become a top contender.

Average house prices have risen from $148,000 to almost $190,000 in the last three years. He added KL&J has analyzed the use of mandatory and incentive policies to help housing prices drop.

"The goal of mixing mandatory- and incentive-based packages is you get the best of both worlds," he said.

It's a waiting game to find a home, How said, especially for residents who don't have the high-paying jobs oil field workers do.

"If they don't have a house, they can't get a job. I can get a job in Dickinson, but I can't live here," he said.

KL&J is also developing a land use plan, which Pickett said the city does not have. A land use plan would help officials make informed decisions on where to put developments.

Pickett said the city is looking at adding a forth zoning district. The R-4 district would allow for a higher population density than the city's highest level of 22 units per acre. Based on population projections, he said the current draft is made to handle more than what is to come in.

"We just need to further analyze those constraints with the population and the sewer and water to refine it," he said.

The land use plan would not be set in stone and would allow developers to make their case to put structures in other zones, Pickett said.

Boniface and Leona Knopik, who live north of Dickinson, said they weren't sure if they learned much from the meeting, but they agreed that the city is trying to plan for the future.

"They're proactive, not reactive," Boniface said.

Leona said things are happening fast and the city has some tough decisions to make.

The next meeting will be held in April.