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Multi-million dollar Barons Vista one small step closer to development

Press Photo by Nadya Faulx Barons Vista principal founder Danny Lim, left, attends a Dickinson Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Wednesday at City Hall, where his request for a comprehensive plan amendment was approved. The company is eyeing Dickinson for a new multi-million dollar development, and the permit would allow Lim to move ahead with plans to build a 282-acre residential and commercial complex.

Dickinson is a step closer to getting a multi-million dollar “lifestyle development” after the Planning and Zoning Commission approved an amendment to the city comprehensive plan Wednesday.

Barons Vista, the Singapore-based LLC behind the property of the same name, announced its plans to build a sprawling residential and retail complex west of the city last month and was on hand at Wednesday’s commission meeting to testify in favor of the amendment.

The approved measure will allow the city to provide sewer and water service to the area within the next couple of years, when the capacity is available. The commission’s vote was merely a preliminary measure for the property, said community development director Ed Courton.

“The rezoning for that development and subsequent planning for that is not on the agenda,” he said. “It’s just to allow the ability that, OK, urban services could be provided.”

The services to the 282-acre Barons property would not, Courton assured commission members, be at the expense of any other developments in the urban service area.

City engineer Craig Kubas estimated that water and sewer services could be extended to the area as soon as construction is complete on nearby water mains, sewer mains, lift stations and water reservoirs, possibly by 2015.

Courton said the commission has “not spent any real time looking at” the entire project yet, but Barons principal founder Danny Lim gave commission and community members a “sneak preview” at plans for what he says will be Dickinson’s “iconic” new feature.

Lim -- flanked at the meeting by the property’s managing broker, Catherine Cronen, and other development partners -- traveled 36 hours to appear before the commission to speak in favor of the amendment.

“It would be a great thing for you guys to be able to approve this, and put in the sewer and water for us so that we can actually get on work,” he said. “We can actually start work the minute you actually tell us, ‘Yes, go ahead.’”

Lim’s Barons Group of Companies, a real estate investment and development firm, has been in the U.S. since 2009 and has bought and re-sold distressed properties around the country, but Lim said this new development would be “the first time we are actually developing something that is 282 acres, and we intend to make it our benchmark.”

Lim has been in discussion with city officials and developers since attending a Bakken Investment Conference last year. Barons Vista would be the company’s second foray into North Dakota real estate. A hotel the company developed in Killdeer is set to open July 4 weekend to coincide with the city’s centennial.

Engineer Robert Andrew, president of the M.A.C. Corporation, which worked with Lim on the Killdeer hotel and is helping with preliminary plans for the property in Dickinson, spoke in favor of the amendment, calling Barons Vista a “lifestyle development that brings the full slate of opportunities to the community.”

The development includes plans for a four-star hotel, retail stores, restaurants and hundreds of single-family residences, which Andrew said will bring economic diversification, jobs and much-needed affordable housing to the community.

The Barons Group have been “truly, truly neat people” to work with, Andrew said after the meeting. “They’re good neighbors.”

Even with all of the testimony in support of Barons Vista, chairman Earl Abrahamson stressed that the measure approved by the commision was “strictly a comp plan amendment to allow development to go forward.

“The comments we’ve heard have been addressed to something in the future, possibly,” he said. “If anyone thinks that what you’ve heard and what’s been alluded to is definite, it’s still totally speculative on the developer’s part.”

Rezoning and other future plans for the area will still be subject to approval by the city, Abrahamson said, but the decision to amend the comprehensive plan will allow Barons Vista to move ahead with development.