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Laying out plans: KLJ, city hold public meeting on West Dickinson Area Study

Press Photo by Nadya Faulx Dickinson Community Development Director Ed Courton, second from left, speaks to a KLJ representative, far left, and Lee Ann and Dean Karsky Thursday at a public meeting on the West Dickinson Area Study. KLJ and city officials are working to draft a plan for the future of 6,100 acres west of Dickinson, where the Karskys have a dairy farm.

Engineering firm KLJ and the city of Dickinson held the first of two public input meetings Thursday about the future of 6,100 acres west of the city.

The West Dickinson Area Study will outline a plan for the region, spanning the city limits to west of 116th Avenue West between 35th Street West and Patterson Lake. The study area covers 6,100 acres west of the city.

As the city expands west, new developments — including Roers’ West Ridge business park just on the city boundary, the Dakota Prairie Refinery, a new sewer line and the Bakken Oil Express — have brought in new interest in the land, KLJ project manager Carron Day said

“With all of that happening in this area, it made sense for the city to be proactive and to initiate a study of the area,” Day told the crowd at Thursday’s meeting at City Hall. “And that’s what we’re doing.”

Approximately 30 landowners whose property is included in the area attended to weigh-in on general priorities and concerns about the area; the hearing was an initial step toward drafting and approving the West Dickinson Area Plan, an addendum to the city’s Dickinson Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2012.

Once a plan is drafted, likely by September, with approval expected in December, implementation and staging will be “the most important” steps, Day said.

“How it’s going to happen, the staging that might happen and how is the city going to provide infrastructure,” Day said.

Attendees at the preliminary meeting shared their opinions via a remote-controlled polling device on general issues like land use and growth impact.

Fifty-eight percent of the landowners at the meeting said recent growth has had a positive effect on the community, while 30 percent said the change has been negative.

Presented with a list of issues, 35 percent said cost of living in Dickinson is the most pressing while 23 percent said it’s affordable housing. The majority of participants indicated they want KLJ and the city to proceed with flexibility to respond to changing conditions as development moves forward.

“Who would have guessed that Dickinson would be where it is today?” Day said.

In addition to a second meeting, scheduled for Aug. 28, KLJ is asking residents to participate in a survey online to help shape future use of the land. The survey can be found at

Rich Brauhn, former vice president of academic affairs at Dickinson State University, has lived in the Lakeview neighborhood just west of city boundaries for about 25 years. He said he attended the meeting because there’s a “concern that this whole area is going to become like Williston,” which he said has grown without adequate planning.

Brauhn added that he doesn’t want to see “this whole area destroyed by a hodge-podge of oil industry,” and hopes whatever development takes place will maintain the quality of life in Dickinson and the integrity of Patterson Lake.

The meeting eased his concerns over the future of the area, Brauhn said.

“I do applaud the city for taking proactive efforts,” he said. “It shows they plan ahead for the future and make informed decisions.”

But not all landowners walked away feeling as good.

Lee Ann Karsky, whom with her husband Dean owns a 480-acre dairy farm just south of 35th Street West, said she’s seen much of the land they’ve leased since 1988 lost to previous development.

“We’re kinda getting pushed out of the dairy,” she said.

The meeting left her with a lot of questions about the plan, but she plans on staying involved with the study to make sure her concerns are heard.

“Development for Dickinson is good,” she said, “but when it comes knocking on your doorstep, it’s a little bit concerning.”

Faulx is a reporter for The Dickinson Press. Tweet her at NadyaFaulx.