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By Caroline Downs
Dave Berry and Alex Gregg, partners in 5Stone Development based in Arizona, spoke confidently of their vision for the 5Stone Ranch project east of Berthold, with up to 300 houses slated for Phase I and up to 2000 homes built within the next five years.
However, residents of the community and Berthold Township voiced their questions and doubts about the project during a public meeting held January 30th with Berry, Gregg and project engineer Vince Vander Top.
Berthold’s location along U.S. Highway 2 northwest of Minot has made it attractive to energy-related businesses and commercial and residential developers. “We know you’re going through a big change,” Gregg said. “We want you to be happy with the change.”
Questions ran the gamut from housing construction standards to storm water management and runoff plans for the region under consideration for the project. The land chosen for the project site serves as a natural watershed dotted with prairie potholes holding surface water and sloping gradually toward the northeast and the Des Lacs River valley.
“We’re doing our calculations so we’re not increasing the rate of runoff downstream,” said Vander Top.
Traffic concerns were raised, given the proximity of the development to U.S. 2 and North Dakota Highway 28. “We have talked to the North Dakota Department of Transportation and we can get accesses,” Vander Top said. “We will have to do intersection improvements and likely we’ll have to put in signals.”
Some residents spoke up about the potential impact to the Berthold Public School, especially given the fact a bond issue for a renovation and building project was rejected by school district voters in January. Berry said he and Gregg have been speaking with school district officials and seeking grants that can assist the district with construction expenses. The developers also noted a $1000 school impact fee would be included in the price of each home, with the total amount collected set aside for the school district.
Some township residents wanted to see more specific details about the proposed development, especially as related to wastewater storage options. Other residents preferred to determine a measure of control for the development and a related housing association. Several people talked about the increased demand the development would place on county law enforcement, which serves Berthold at this time in the absence of a municipal police department. The impact to Berthold’s current “small town” quality of life was mentioned repeatedly.
Individuals did not specifically reject 5Stone’s proposal, however, and some offered support for the concept. One resident noted the community was likely to see increased development anyway, which could evolve into a mix of man camps, houses and mobile home parks with no oversight from the city.
Another member of the audience reminded the crowd that several developers had approached the city and various landowners in the past two years, but 5Stone Development was the only group who offered a master plan covering all aspects of their proposal. “That’s as good as it’s going to get,” he said.
Berry and Gregg fielded the questions and listened to the concerns. They explained their meetings with the Ward County Sheriff’s Department, their role in working with the community to establish housing associations, and the benefits to the city for annexing the property.
Gregg said he would be experiencing the changes alongside the local residents because he plans to move his wife and children to Berthold as he works on the development. “Realistically, this is a three- to five-year project,” he said, “and we’ll solve the problems that come along. We want to have the ability to grow as the project grows.”
The Berthold City Council will discuss the 5Stone Ranch project further at its February meeting on Monday, February 13th, beginning at 7:30 pm at City Hall. The public is welcome to attend all city council meetings.