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Berthold City Council denies rezoning for Enbridge expansion

The Berthold City Council relocated from City Hall to the Sportsmen’s building across Main Street for their regular meeting Monday night. The move was necessary to accommodate the number of local residents who showed up to speak about Enbridge’s request to have an 80-acre parcel of land rezoned from agricultural to industrial use for a proposed expansion of their facilities.

8/11/10 (Wed)

 

By Caroline Downs
 
The Berthold City Council relocated from City Hall to the Sportsmen’s building across Main Street for their regular meeting Monday night. The move was necessary to accommodate the number of local residents who showed up to speak about Enbridge’s request to have an 80-acre parcel of land rezoned from agricultural to industrial use for a proposed expansion of their facilities.
 
“This is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had here,” joked Mayor Alan Lee as he opened the meeting. The council started by accepting the resignation of councilman John Johnson who was elected as a write-in candidate. Council member Robert Inman nominated Mark Birdsall to be appointed to the three-year term, and the council unanimously approved.
 
With Birdsall seated, Lee addressed the Enbridge application, with Inman repeating the recommendation from the Planning/Zoning Committee meeting on August 2nd that the request be denied. “We heard a lot of comments about safety issues and the proximity to town,” Inman said.
 
Jim Watts, legal counsel for Enbridge, expressed gratitude on behalf of Enbridge for the city council’s consideration. “We appreciate the cooperation and mutual respect shown from all parties as part of the process,” he said.
 
Watts reviewed the benefits of Enbridge’s proposed expansion, including contributions to the local tax base and community projects. He also reminded the group that the North Dakota Public Service Commission granted a permit for the project during their August 4th meeting.
 
“The PSC requires certain traffic safety measures, as recommended by the North Dakota Department of Transportation,” said Watts. “We’re asked to implement them and to pay for those traffic safety measures. The DOT will only implement those measures if the Enbridge facility is located at that site.”
 
Watts referred to a railroad crossing on U.S. Highway 2 just west of the current Enbridge property, which is the only railroad crossing on a four-lane highway in the state. The crossing inhibits traffic flow as semi-trailers, school buses and certain other vehicles are required to stop there, while most passenger and commercial traffic can drive through. The crossing has been a long-standing safety concern for Berthold residents.
 
The Enbridge proposal contains a plan from the NDDOT to add turning/stopping lanes at the railroad crossing, with Enbridge paying the estimated $1 million cost. During the Zoning/Planning Committee meeting, several members of the audience expressed concern about a proposed right-side turn-out lane in the westbound roadway that would require trucks making a left turn from the Enbridge facility to cross five lanes of traffic in order to reach their correct lane.
 
Other traffic safety measures that would be implemented at the site were reducing the maximum speed limit from 70 to 55 mph and increased signage to advise drivers about the turn-out lanes.
 
No revisions to the plan were submitted for the Berthold City Council meeting. “We were advocating for a left-hand access lane,” said Lee. “DOT came back with a right-hand lane for a stop lane.”
 
Lee asked if Enbridge had discussed the traffic lane concerns with the DOT since the August 2nd meeting. “We haven’t yet,” Watts said. “We’d be willing to enter into those conversations to make the site safe for our operations and for the safety of the community.”
 
Lee summarized the rest of the Enbridge proposal for the audience, including the construction of eight truck unloading sites on the 80-acre parcel consisting of four 400-barrel tanks per site, the reactivation of the 80,000 barrel storage tank on the current Enbridge site, and the construction of two additional 80,000-barrel tanks at that location. The project was scheduled was to be completed by 2012.
 
Watts noted a buffer area, with tree lines and some fencing east and south of the Enbridge facility, was included in the proposal.
 
Comments support Enbridge,
offer compromise
Ward County commissioner and Berthold area resident John Fjeldahl suggested a compromise by asking Watts if Enbridge had considered building on the requested location using an access point west of their facility and the railroad tracks, with a frontage road. “I’d like to suggest some middle ground,” he said. “I think the facility would be good for the community, and the council could approve the Enbridge application with this condition.”
 
He continued, “Enbridge could acquire the property further west for their access and have their trucks use County Road 9 to get back to the highway. Or you could say you approve the permit on the condition the city approves what the NDDOT and PSC will do to make that intersection safe.”
 
Fjeldahl also addressed statements from the Zoning/Planning Committee about Berthold’s potential growth north of town. “You have concerns about the city developing, but the property there hasn’t been for sale or the city hasn’t tried to buy it, to my knowledge,” he said. “It’s all assumption. We have a lot of industrial businesses located on the north side of this highway already. [Enbridge] would be on the south side.”
 
He encouraged the city council to consider the suggestion. “This is a way for the city to send a message back to the DOT and PSC,” he said, “and maybe some of these options will work.”
 
As public comment continued, most of the two dozen people in the audience agreed with Fjeldahl’s ideas. “You can’t sit and wait for [buying land for development] when you have a chance for something like this,” said Gen Hall.
 
Other individuals cited the economic impact of Enbridge’s expansion, the opportunities presented to the community, and Enbridge’s willingness to cooperate with Berthold residents. “I think Enbridge has bent over backwards to try to please everybody,” said Nathan Fegley. “I think a lot of people around here would like to see construction start. A conditional permit is the way to go.”
 
Bill Feickert repeated some of his arguments against the 80-acre parcel Enbridge had chosen east of their existing facility. He advocated for the company to build the truck unloading stations on an 80-acre parcel west of the site. He noted Enbridge had built facilities in Tioga, Stanley and Alexander farther from those city limits than the Berthold site would be.
 
Feickert quoted Edna Keiser of Minot, who owns the land surrounding the current Enbridge facility, in saying she would sell 80 acres to Enbridge on either side of the railroad tracks. He also noted Enbridge was limited in where they could build their pipeline. “They need to bring the oil to Berthold,” he said. “They can’t go anywhere else.”
 
Inman, Birdsall and council member Jim Peterson served on the Zoning/Planning Committee. Inman repeated the committee’s concerns about the Enbridge proposal impacting the city’s growth. “If the next company comes in [and wants land re-zoned], how do we turn them down?” Inman asked. “We don’t want to stop [Enbridge]. We want them to go on the other side. The proximity to town is too close, and that way their trucks don’t have to stop at the railroad tracks.”
 
Watts responded to all the public comments by again expressing appreciation for the process and the statements made. “We’re looking to maximize the opportunities that exist on that site,” he said, “and we ask that the city council considers our application to approve.”
 
Council weighs in
As council members discussed the rezoning request, Birdsall preferred to see Enbridge purchase the 80-acre tract west of their current property. “When they’re encroaching on the city zoning to the east when there’s a west alternative, I have a hard time voting yes,” he said. “After all those comments were made by the public [last week], what’s a Zoning/Planning Committee for?”
 
Inman made a motion to deny the Enbridge request, because of the safety concerns and the proximity to town.
 
Peterson said he believed the community benefited the same if Enbridge built their truck unloading sites on the west parcel.
 
Council member Jay Brown agreed. “We have it zoned so the city can control it,” he said. “I don’t want to see an industrial park on the edge of town.”
 
The council unanimously denied Enbridge’s request to have the selected 80 acres rezoned from agricultural to industrial use.
 
In other business:
*Council members approved payment of the city’s bills, with the exception of an invoice for a crack-sealing project that needs to be reviewed.
 
*The council directed Al Marum, owner of CT Trucking, LLC, to relocate the trucks used for his business within a month, with Lee offering to assist him in finding suitable property to rent or buy. Currently, some of the trucks are serviced or repaired on Marum’s residential property, which violates a city ordinance and has generated complaints from one neighbor. Marum said he has been attempting to purchase property.
 
*Council members approved a motion to take the next steps in a long-standing issue to enforce a pet ordinance involving breeds illegal to keep in town. The council directed city attorney Bryan VanGrinsven to obtain a court order allowing the Ward County Sheriff’s Department to remove the dog in question.
 
*The council voted to donate the two lots, valued at less than $2500, adjoining the north side of property owned by the Berthold Senior Citizens Center to the proposed daycare project. Andy Fjeldahl, a Kids Academy board member, said the space would be 100’x140’ and adequate for the project. City council members noted the property was a natural waterway, with fill work and a culvert needed.