BELFIELD - Zoning members in this small town affected by growth related to western North Dakota’s energy boom got more than an updated plat at a meeting last month.

A representative from American Landmark Group, which is planning a 42-acre “Belfield Crossing” multi-use development north of downtown, informed city representatives that the development would require new utilities infrastructure because the city is almost maxed out of power and natural gas.

ALG’s Hal Hayman warned the city at the Jan. 21 planning and zoning meeting when utilities came up.

“You’re in a real hurt,” he told zoning board members.

“Be careful what you approve.”

Zoning members seemed somewhat surprised to hear how close the city was to being maxed out. But MDU Resources Group has plans for upgrades to both natural gas and electricity for Belfield.

Belfield Mayor Leo Schneider said he too didn’t know much about the city’s utilities situation until ALG brought it to the zoning board’s attention.

For natural gas, “what we have there now, there’s adequate capacity to handle what I’ll call normal growth,” MDU Resources spokesman Mark Hanson said. “Now if this development comes to be and it’s full … that would be a pretty big natural gas draw.”

Ten to 15 businesses that use more natural gas than a home would be a “big pull” and would put the system “near its max,” he said.

And this project is a large one - it’s planned to include hotels, retail, four different restaurants and office warehouse space, ALG managing partner Mitch Beckstead said.

He said because of issues like what the company and city face now with utilities, potential tenants are a little more wary of signing contracts for using the space in North Dakota.

People have been burned before, after signing on to a project that didn’t have the necessary infrastructure in place, he said, so now potential tenants want to make sure developers have the right utilities and infrastructure installed before committing.

MDU has plans for a new town border station, which gas goes into off of a transmission line, for natural gas north of town. Currently, a south station serves the town and can handle gradual growth.

For electricity, Hanson said MDU plans an upgrade for the Belfield substation this spring. He couldn’t comment specifically on providing for the ALG development because the company hasn’t submitted power requirements, he said.

Since the north gas station will at least for now be mostly for the ALG development, MDU enters into what’s called an extension agreement with the company.

“That requires the developer - when they’re the only one that needs the gas in that area - to pay for bringing it in,” Hanson said.

If another development comes in and hooks up to the north station, that new company would pay a share of the original cost.

That new station will serve the development and future growth north of Interstate 94, which is likely.

“There’s no place to go in downtown Belfield because of the floodplain. … So it’s gotta go north,” he said. “And we have spoken to and heard about several other projects, none of them to the extent of ours, but some decent projects.”

Hayman said he has heard of projects proposed for that area north of the interstate, but that plans have fallen through, possibly because of the utility problems.

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