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Renaissance Zone changes proposed

Proposed changes to the Dickinson Renaissance Zone, which follows Villard Street from State Avenue to Fourth Avenue East, will have a public hearing at April's meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission. (submitted photo)

Changes are coming to the city's renaissance zone.

The Renaissance Zone program was instituted by North Dakota's Department of Commerce in 1999 as an effort to incentivize downtown revitalization and development in small and large communities across the state.

The city hopes to shift the zone away from residential areas and more toward Villard Street, City Planner Walter Hadley explained at the March 20 meeting of the city planning and zoning commission.

"What we're doing is trying to move some of the more residential-in-nature areas out of the zone, because they haven't been active, and move them into the commercial area, mainly in the downtown corridor and along Villard," Hadley said.

The zone would be amended to exclude Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce and City Hall, and five blocks along Second Street West adjacent to Dickinson State University.

Several blocks are also being added back into the zone.

The city would add First to Fourth Avenues between First and Second Streets.

The Renaissance Zone plan was updated last year, but the plan itself expires this year, Hadley said.

"By July, we need to have it formalized and the state needs to adopt it once again," he said. "It just coincided that we had to update our plan last year and we have to update it with the state this year."

Blocks near DSU were added with last year's update, but the city's focus has since changed.

"We proposed an overlay district next to DSU. That didn't go over so well, so we scrapped that project," Hadley said. "It wasn't well received. There wasn't a lot of push or emphasis that the area wanted to move forward with improvements."

It's unlikely the zone will be further expanded along Villard, Hadley said.

"We'd love to include those, but we picked the area we felt was more suited to a Renaissance Zone project right now, rather than just continuing in a straight line," he said.

If the census reveals the city's population has grown above 25,000 people, the zone can add two more blocks.

As part of the Renaissance Zone, property owners receive a freeze in their tax valuation.

"If you put $200,000 into your building you're not assessed that for a five-year period," Hadley said. "It's quite a great benefit, if someone's going to do some improvements."

Some people don't take advantage of these benefits mainly due to timing, Hadley said.

Rather than wait for paperwork to be approved by the city, they might start their construction right away.

Commission Chair Jason Fridrich encouraged property owners to take advantage of the zone's benefits.

"We need to keep working on the education on it," he said. "A lot of people, it's always an afterthought it seems like."

There have not been any concerns or complaints about the proposed changes, Hadley said.

"We're going to present this to the school board, county. The taxing districts need to weigh in every time there's a change to this," he said. "I don't anticipate that they're going to have any concerns, but we keep them in the loop."

The proposed changes to the Renaissance Zone will have a public hearing at April's meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

If passed, the changes will be presented to the Dickinson City Commission.