The Bowman County Board of Commissioners approved the final piece necessary to move forward on the planned Bowman Gateway Industrial Park this week, ending the approval process on a project that has been called controversial and opposed by several city and county residents.
Commissioners approved during their regular meeting Tuesday the purchase of 46 acres of property adjacent to the former airport and owned by the Wokal family. The purchase, with a “sticker price” of about $237,000, was deemed necessary for rail access to the industrial park, a component that would make it more attractive to potential buyers.
Each of the commissioners voted to approve the purchase with the exception of Commissioner Pine Abrahamson, who said he did not understand the purchase price or the county purchasing private property.
The biggest hurdle prior to the vote was discussion over a buffer that would protect nearby landowners from views of the industrial park.
Commissioner Lynn Brackel said during discussion that he would not vote to approve the purchase if there was not something in the motion to guarantee such a buffer would be created.
Brackel suggested that a 300-foot stretch of the Wokal property, about the length of a football field, remain under county control; it would prohibit any potential buyers from building on that space and protect nearby property owners.
Teran Doerr, director of the Bowman County Development Corp., initially asked if the county would allow the plan for a buffer to run through the city’s zoning board.
“But will it happen?” Brackel questioned. He added that he did not trust city zoning handling a buffer zone because it would have no way to enforce it.
In the final motion it was stipulated that any zoning arrangements for the 300-foot buffer be approved by the county to ensure it is handled satisfactorily.
Commissioner Bill Bowman also suggested that city sewer and water lines in the second phase be installed up to nearby property owners, namely Dave and Tana Smolnikar and Lauren and Jeanette Homelvig.
“They won’t be nearly as opposed to it if they know that they have access,” Bowman said.
Doerr agreed, and avowed that those residents would be included in discussion of future development near their land. Though, engineering and what the city could afford to do for the second phase would have to eventually be considered. And the residents would have to pay to hook onto the water and sewer lines. None of that would occur in the first phase.
Commissioner Ken Steiner made it clear that Doerr worked for the county and asked if he and his fellow commissioners would have input or be able to “make complaints” if they do not “like what’s going on” at the industrial park.
“This was done in the best interest for Bowman County,” Doerr said, explaining that the county input would certainly be welcome.
Considering existing public opposition, Brackel reaffirmed the need for such a park.
Businesses in the past have been turned away simply because there was not adequate space, with complete infrastructure, within the city.
Notably, the BCDC had to turn away a paper company about five years ago because there was no place for it, Brackel said.
“It does happen,” Doerr seconded.
An industrial park would have allowed the business space and infrastructure.
For future businesses, it is now a possibility.
Commissioners then unanimously approved the payout of $20,000 to the BCDC for marketing of the project, legal fees, and for payment to retain Gilmore Planning’s assistance with the park’s development.
The next step for the industrial park is to undergo planning and zoning in the next few months. Construction of infrastructure likely would not begin until the spring.