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Odyssey Theater Project flat-lined in 3-2 vote

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A fence surrounds the area where Odyssey Theaters had planned to build a eight-screen complex. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

In a narrow vote, Dickinson City Commissioners split 3-2 on Tuesday evening in favor of a motion to exercise a contract clause to buy back property sold to Odyssey Theaters in October of 2017.

Newly elected commissioners Suzie Sobolik and John Odermann formed the buyback vote, motioning and voting in favor of a repurchasing property sold to Odyssey Theaters; while commissioners Nicole Wolla and Jason Fridrich voiced their view that Odyssey should be granted an opportunity to move forward with their plans via an extension. The tie breaking vote fell to Mayor Scott Decker, who repeated his previous vote opting to favor the buyback option — effectively ending the project.

The highly debated and contentious decision comes after years of project complications and delays, extensive contract negotiations and an ever growing public awareness and dismay with either option.

In a packed commission room and after formalities, commissioners again addressed the agenda item concerning the fate of an eight-screen state-of-the-art movie theater complex project in downtown Dickinson.

The agenda item began with acting-city administrator Linda Carlson presenting a consideration to approve a temporary extension to the right of repurchase for Odyssey Theaters.

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Carlson presented the commission with the options that Odyssey forwarded to the City of Dickinson for consideration and provided commissioners with two options moving forward.

“There are two options, would you like to exercise the buyback option and repurchase the property back for $90,000 and then the lot could be returned to parking...,” Carlson said. “Or work with the proposed response from Odyssey on extending the buyback option into 2021 and paying for building permit, schedule and signed contract with MDU telecommunication utilities and reopen the parking lot until construction of the project.”

Pointed questions

Decker opened the item for discussion or questions for Odyssey.

Odermann directed pointed questions at Odyssey Theaters Vice President Bryan Sieve concerning Odyssey’s history of longstanding complications and issues surrounding the project.

“This has been an extremely difficult project for us, and we’ve done a number of developments but this one has had a lot of drama in terms of what it takes to get things done on this plot of land,” Sieve said. “We have to move a significant number of utilities, as a lot of the utilities that serve the downtown are going through that lot and through that alleyway there. No less than two fiber optic lines, main transmission electrical line, a gas main and a number of telephone data utilities that have to be relocated.”

Sieve then detailed platting issues that arose in September of 2018 requiring a replat of the land and requiring negotiations with the Postal Services in Washington to resolve.

“Unbeknownst to our lawyers at the time of the subplot, and our architects didn’t notice it, but when the building was designed it was designed as a zero-lotline building. As part of the deeding process it was discovered that a small portion of a twelve-foot by nineteen-foot parcel went back to the United States Postal Service. You may think that’s not a big deal, but it turned out to be a huge deal because the building sat on it and there was no way to redesign the building,” Sieve explained. “It took 8 months to go through the administration in Washington D.C. and $40,000 in legal fees to get it done. That blew the summer of 2018’s construction season.”

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Odermann challenged Sieve on the possibility of construction during the winter, questioning the validity of statements Odyssey made to The Press, “Winter construction is impossible in North Dakota.” Odermann called Tracy Tooz of Tooz Construction to the podium and asked if they could construct during winter months.

“If we would get the concrete in the ground, erecting steel and doing those traits...its just shorter days for us. We do work through the winter,” Tooz acknowledged.

Sieve backtracked on previous statements confirming that they did not consider construction during the winter as their budget would not permit the added costs associated with winter constructions in North Dakota.

“Given how seriously cold it can get up in Dickinson, and we’ve had experience in winter condition builds, and it’s not at all palatable to our budget,” Sieve said.

The Vote

Decker and Fridrich addressed building permits and certificates of zoning compliance issues, saying that if the commission moved forward with an extension that Odyssey would have one year to complete the work or ask for an extension.

According to Section 39.12.006 of the city code on building and permits, “If work described in any building permit has not been substantially completed within two years of the date of issuance thereof, said permit shall expire and be cancelled by the Building Official, and written notice thereof shall be given to the persons affected…”

Sieve requested that the City of Dickinson provide the company an extension through August 2021, but members of the commission appeared concerned about the company's commitment to the project.

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After some deliberation a motion was made by Fridrich to approve an extension of the contract and that Odyssey pays for the permit no later than July 10 of this week, and that once the permit is paid that an extension of the right to repurchase to July 10 of 2021, with no extension..

Fridrich’s motion was seconded by Wolla and failed in a vote 2-3.

A second motion was made by Odermann to initiate and execute the city’s right to repurchase, which was seconded by Sobolik and passed 3-2.

For the full video of the commission meeting, visit dickinsongov.com .

James B. Miller, Jr. is the Editor of The Dickinson Press in Dickinson, North Dakota. He strives to bring community-driven, professional and hyper-local focused news coverage of southwest North Dakota.
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