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KLJ holds hearing for West Dickinson Area study

Potential land use plans for the 6,100 acres west of Dickinson are narrowing in the months before engineering firm KLJ presents its recommendations to the city.

The second of two community hearings was held on the West Dickinson Area Plan Thursday, the last before KLJ representatives meet for a combined workshop with the city officials on Sept. 22.

“We’re exactly in the middle of it,” project manager Carron Day told participants. “We have no answers yet, but we’re working on it.”

The plan will be an addendum to 2012’s Dickinson Comprehensive Plan, “Dickinson 2035: Roadmap to the Future.” The Dickinson Planning and Zoning Commission will hold the joint meeting with the City Commission.

The land in question is bordered by the landmarks of Menard’s in the northeast to the Bakken Oil Express in the southwest. Much of the development on the region has so far been industrial, including the Dakota Prairie Refinery, and commercial, with the Roers’ West Ridge business park. But as Dickinson’s population increases and spills over city boundaries, developers are eyeing the land for future expansion.

After an initial community meeting with landowners on July 31, Thursday’s agenda delved more deeply into land plans for area, from roadways to lot sizes to possible roundabouts.

A survey revealed the majority of respondents want to see the area developed for residential and recreational use. Many named recreation areas, affordable housing, infrastructure and traffic as important issues to consider in any future land use plans.

KLJ representatives are still analyzing potential plans’ compatibility with current land uses and what impact an expansion will have on commute time, farm loss, water use and quality of life in the area, among other issues.

Questions remain on what any development will mean for Dickinson.

Though the possibility exists of the city annexing the land into its boundaries in the future, Day said annexation is not part of the plan in discussion.

The goal is “to examine this area and see how it could develop in the future,” she said. “Any discussion about annexation is a completely different project.”

City Administrator Shawn Kessel said that regardless of whether the land becomes part of city limits or not, the Dickinson school district boundaries will not change. Families who live west of 50th Avenue Southwest will remain in the South Heart School District, opening the door for possible complications as the area develops.

“If we annex land as a city, the school district remains exactly the same,” he said. “They are independent of one another.”

It’s an issue KLJ will have to take into consideration as it finalizes its recommendations. Day said the next steps will be to continue incorporating survey results — public comments are still being accepted online — into the plan before project leaders meet with city officials next month to present and discuss a draft of the plan.

The final plan is expected to be presented in December.