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Building boom town: West Fargo seeing robust housing construction

Dave Buchfink, Cody Gaetz and Sean Buchfink of Ellenbaum Construction work on a home Tuesday in the Maple Ridge development in West Fargo.

WEST FARGO - There's no oil under West Fargo, but that isn't keeping it from being a North Dakota boom town.

West Fargo issued a record number of housing permits in 2012, and is on track to eclipse that mark this year.

In 2012, the city issued $216 million in permits, nearly two and a half times the amount for 2011, Planning Director Larry Weil said. That included 411 single-family and twin homes, and 430 townhomes and apartments.

Builders are raising roofs even faster this year.

Through June, 180 single-family permits were issued in West Fargo, 20 more than last year at this time; 30 twin home permits, 14 more than last year; and seven apartment complex permits with 243 units, nearly 200 units more than last year.

Nine more subdivisions with 560 lots were approved, including Strawberry Fields, Shadow Creek Fourth Addition, Brooks Harbor First and Second additions, Eaglewood Second Addition, Rivers Bend at the Preserve First Addition, South Pond at the Preserve Seventh Addition, West Creek First Addition, and Shadow Creek Fifth Addition, Weil said.

The Brooks Harbor additions west of Sheyenne Street are now getting sewer, water and roads for the planned 258 lots.

"It's kind of a war zone going down Sheyenne," Weil said.

Sign of strength

"The market right now is phenomenal," said Kevin Fisher, president of the Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of Realtors. "It's just a strong economy. You've got a lot of people moving from other areas to find jobs" in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

While job seekers are still streaming to western North Dakota's Oil Patch, some are leaving, Fisher said. Older couples are moving from the west to the Fargo-Moorhead area to avoid the "rat race" of the oil boom, he said.

Most of the metro area's active developments are south of Interstate 94, Fisher said.

Several of Fargo's developments are part of the West Fargo School District, which has seen a huge influx of students in the last decade due to the housing boom south of Interstate 94.

The 550-student Freedom Elementary School opened full last fall, and a new elementary school going up at 54th Street South in Fargo will likely open full in fall 2014, district officials say.

The district expects an average of 430 new students yearly for the next five years. Officials are considering when and where to build another new elementary school.

The West Fargo School District, which opens a second high school and second middle school in August, will hit capacity in those schools in seven to eight years, if the latest growth projections hold.

Jenn Kluck and her fiancé may add to those West Fargo student numbers.

The pair made their final walk-through last week of a two-story home they're buying in Fargo's Deer Creek area, in the city's far southwest.

"We knew we wanted to build a house and we wanted to build in a rural area" on the edge of town, the Fargo Essentia Health nurse said.

The couple got the lot on a pond they wanted. They also have the school district they wanted for when it's time to add children to their family.

"We've heard the school district out here is great," Kluck said.

The Fargo School District is also growing, with about 200 new students projected annually for the next few years, officials said.

Weil expects West Fargo's growth to continue. He said the city has topped 30,000 residents, up from 25,830 in 2010. One forecast has the population topping 45,000 by 2040, he said.

"If we continue (to grow) at the same rate ... within 10 years we'd be fully grown out" of acreage to develop that's not in the flood plain, Weil said. "We don't have any dull moments. We're running all the time."

West Fargo

In 2012, West Fargo home-building permits were concentrated in South Pond at the Preserve with 87, Maple Ridge at the Preserve, 56; Shadow Wood, 54; Westport Beach, 41; Shadow Creek, 40; Eaglewood, 39; The Wilds, 25; Reserve at Osgood, 16; West River, 12; and Charleswood, nine.

Another 440 apartment units were permitted in South Pond at the Preserve, 330; Eagle Run, 72; Maple Ridge at the Preserve, 28; and Dolls, 10.

There is no breakdown for permits by subdivision for 2013, officials said.

Much of West Fargo's growth is due to the Sheyenne Diversion moving Sheyenne River water around the city during floods, Weil said.

The diversion protects the city from 100-year floods, so flood insurance is not needed for protected lots, he said.

"The diversion is really the pivotal criteria" in making West Fargo the go-to spot in the metro area, Weil said. "The area is protected. The other areas are not as protected."

In all, West Fargo has about 780 lots with city services available for single-family and twin home construction. Another 323 single-family lots in four subdivisions are being considered, Weil said.

"We're managing. We call it an orderly chaos. We're trying to stay ahead of it."


Last year, Fargo issued 147 single-family home permits through July 1. This year, there were 192 in the same period, records show.

In 2012, Fargo issued 331 residential building permits, many in Brandt Crossing, 59; Veterans Park, 56; Deer Creek, 37; Osgood, 28; Woodhaven, 23; Osgood Estates, 22; and Maple Valley, 20. The rest were scattered among a score of other developments around the city.

So far in 2013, permits have been concentrated in Deer Creek, 57; Brandt Crossing, 33; Davies Second, 28; Osgood, 16; Veterans Park, 12; and Eagle Pointe, 10. Others are scattered throughout the city.

Fargo is still growing, despite requirements in some areas to add soil to lots to increase home elevations, or for flood insurance, Fisher said.

"You're seeing incredible housing booms," with many homes getting multiple offers, Fisher said. "Where are the people moving to? They're going wherever they can get houses."

In Fargo, several subdivisions are primed for growth, Planning Director Jim Gilmour said.

Near Davies High School and Bennett Elementary School, Golden Valley has 83 lots, Crofton Coves First Addition has 140 lots and Eagle Pointe Second Addition has 65, records show.

West of Interstate 29, the subdivisions south of the Microsoft campus, Cottagewood First Addition, has 92 lots. West of the 52nd Avenue South Walmart is The Pines with 134 lots and five multiunit apartment lots.

Along Veterans Boulevard, Farmstead at Brandt has 86 lots; Valley View has 63 lots, plus two multiunit apartment lots, Ashwood Fourth has 41 lots and Schatz Third has three multiunit apartment lots.

Many of the homes being built are upper-middle-class structures - in the $250,000 and up range - rather than starter homes, Gilmour said.

In mid-February, Fargo had 890 vacant lots with roads, sewer and water available. There were another 802 lots approved for development without infrastructure, city figures show.