County okays $1 million to spur new home construction

Posted 3/27/19
By Neal A. Shipman

Farmer Editor

While the McKenzie County Job Development Authority still has a few tweaks to make to its Housing Infrastructure Grant Pilot Program, the McKenzie County Commissioners on Tuesday, March 19, committed $1 million toward the program.
Under the pilot program, which could become a reality as early as May, the $1 million of county funds would be used as a financial incentives to help jump-start the construction of new single-family homes that meet the $315,000 FHA maximum loan restriction in the county.

“The goal of the program is to incentivize developers to start building homes here,” stated Joel Brown, JDA president. “We want to supplement the gap in the first time home market.”

According to Brown, the funds would be used to help buy down the infrastructure costs associated with the purchase of a new home that qualifies for the program.

“What we have learned in our research of new home construction costs in Watford City is that there is about a $50,000 cost that is associated with providing water and sewer, street, curb, gutters and sidewalks to the price of a home,” states Brown. “And that puts the price of a $315,000 home at $365,000, which is outside the FHA loan limit.”

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Jump-starting construction of single family homes

County commissioners look at offering financial
incentives for new homes meeting FHA loan requirement

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor
 
Will financial incentives help spur the construction of much needed affordable single-family homes in Watford City, as well as Arnegard and Alexander?

The McKenzie County Board of County Commissioners hopes so. And the board is now giving serious consideration to allocating $1 million of county funds in the way of financial incentives to help jump-start the construction of new single-family homes that meet the $315,000 FHA maximum loan restriction in the county.

“There is a big backlog of people wanting to secure FHA loans,” stated Commissioner Gene Veeder, during the commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19. “We want to do something that the developers can move forward with. This program is designed to help the first- or second-time home buyer who can’t meet the FHA requirement.”

The lack of affordable single-family housing in Watford City and elsewhere in the county is at a critical stage, Joel Brown, McKenzie County Job Development Authority (JDA) chairman, told the commissioners.

“In the past several years we have seen a shift in people wanting to work and live here,” stated Brown. “The issue is we don’t have affordable single-family houses. And we can’t attract workers without housing.”

A little over a year ago, the commissioners tasked the JDA with addressing the housing issue in the county and since then Brown says the board has been trying to come up with a plan that would use incentives to get new home construction started.

According to Brown, if the county commissioners give their final approval to the proposed incentives, county funds would be used to help buy down the infrastructure costs associated with the purchase of a new  home that qualifies for the program.

“What we have learned in our research of new home construction costs in Watford City is that there is about a $50,000 cost that is associated with providing water and sewer, street, curb, gutters and sidewalks to the price of a home,” states Brown. “And that puts the price of a $315,000 home at $365,000, which is outside the FHA loan limit.”

It is Brown’s and the commissioners’ hope that if the county can help reduce that $50,000 cost, contractors will begin building new stick-built homes that meet the $315,000 FHA limit. And buyers will start snatching up the new homes.

But according to Brown, there will be several restrictions on homes that are eligible for the financial incentive.

First, the home cannot sell for more than $365,000. And second, the new stick-built homes must be within the city limits of Watford City, Arnegard or Alexander.

“Right now we are looking at the incentive as being a five-year forgivable mortgage,” states Brown. “And the homeowner must live in the home as their primary residence for five years.”

Brown says the five-year requirement will help protect the county from having people purchase a home and then being able to flip it for a profit.

“Meeting the demand for new homes in the $315,000 housing market is what we are targeting with this program,” states Brown. “New homes that are selling for over $365,000 will not qualify for the incentives.”

According to Brown, he is hoping that the county’s $1 million will help jump-start the construction of between 20 and 30 new homes this spring and summer.
“Right now there is a big gap in the market for the first-time home buyer,” states Brown. “There really aren’t any homes that are on the market in the $315,000 price point.”

While creating financial incentives to help spur new single-family home construction is an arena that the county commissioners have never stepped into before, the board was unanimous in the JDA moving forward with holding a series of public meetings on the proposal.

“We have to have homes or we can’t grow,” stated Tom McCabe, Commission chairman.

And calling it a job development issue, Veeder said he was comfortable with the concept.

“If we can get 20 to 30 new homes built, it would be a big piece of work for us,” stated Veeder. “There are other communities that do this.”

Veeder also shared with the board a conversation he had with one company which had 19 workers that are commuting to Watford City to work.

“They want to live here,” stated Veeder. “We want people to live here and not in Williston, Dickinson or Minot.”

While Watford City has seen a quadrupling in its population in the last several years, Brown believes that more growth is coming. All that is holding that population growth back now is the lack of housing.

“The heavy oil development in the future is going to continue to be in McKenzie County,” states Brown. “I’d like to see this incentive program happen and to have an immediate impact on our housing issue.

According to Dan Stenberg, JDA executive director, there will be public forums at 12 noon and 5:30 p.m. on March 12 in the commissioners room at the McKenzie County Courthouse to help explain the program and as an opportunity for public comment.

County to revisit 40-acre rule

Residents claim requirement limits landowner options

By Betsy Ryan
Farmer Staff Writer

Many turned out to the McKenzie County Planning and Zoning board meeting last week to voice their opinions about the “40-acre rule.” In effect since 2015, the board opened up discussion on the ordinance, allowing residents to weigh in on whether or not it was time to change the rule.

The 40-acre ordinance states that to place a home on agriculturally zoned land in McKenzie County, a landowner must own at least 40 acres. Before this ordinance went into place in 2015, there was a series of much smaller minimum parcel sizes, one and then five acres, that a person had to own in order to build a home.

“Before we updated the county’s comprehensive land use plan in 2013, we surveyed stakeholders about their priorities and two of the elements that ranked high were the protection of agricultural land and containing urban sprawl,” said Vawnita Best, who served on the planning and zoning board as a county commissioner when the 40-acre rule was drafted. “The current ordinance at the time did not address either concern.”

The overwhelming majority of landowners who addressed the board last week, however, were much more concerned with their personal property rights than protection of their land and urban sprawl.

“I think that the county crossed a line,” said local resident Nevin Dahl. “It is not their right or their place to tell me as a landowner what I can do on my personal property.”

Dahl, along with other landowners, claim that the 40-acre rule has set land values and forced people to rent in the city rather than buy a small one or five-acre parcel where they can build a small home on a tight budget.

Don Moberg, who two years ago unsuccessfully searched the county over to find a small parcel where he could place a doublewide trailer, also voiced his opinion that the ordinance needs to change. He was not interested in purchasing 40 acres of agricultural land and found that placing a trailer on one of the smaller parcels in town, ranging from one to five acres, was not allowed.

“When people are starting out, they can’t buy a $400,000 house,” Moberg said. “Many want to start with a small trailer or manufactured home out in the country. That is just not possible with the current ordinance.”

McKenzie County Planning and Zoning Director Jim Talbert, has watched how the ordinance has played out since its inception.

“The original intent was to put homes in concentrated areas where we could provide services in a costefficient way and keep rural land rural,” Talbert said. “I have been faithful in supporting the ordinance, but I figured that enough time has passed that we should take a look at how it is working.”

Talbert said that he is questioned about the ordinance by current and potential landowners on a weekly basis. After receiving regular complaints about the ordinance, he is now taking the opportunity to explore all options and research potential changes to the ordinance.

At the meeting, residents seemed to lean toward a change in the ordinance to either a one, five or 10-acre minimum.

Several voices, including Talbert and Ari Johnson, who provides legal counsel to the department, discussed whether it would be feasible to keep the ordinance as is, but utilize the option of a conditional use permit. In that scenario, people wishing to buy a parcel smaller than 40 acres could request a conditional use permit allowing them to build a home on the property.

“A conditional use permit is not necessarily the best name for this option,” Talbert said. “That implies that the permit could be revoked at any time. But if we go this route, the permit would be permanent and irrevocable.”

Dahl said that during the meeting, he was of the opinion that the ordinance should be changed to a five-acre minimum. As time has gone on, however, he feels any acreage minimum is inappropriate.

“Our ancestors homesteaded this area to obtain personal property rights,” said Dahl. “Veterans have fought and died for our constitutional personal property rights.”

Best, on the other hand, reiterated that the 40-acre minimum is imperative to grouping land uses together. She said that before the current ordinance, people built however they wanted without concern for what was around them. Incompatible land uses such as homes built next to transmission lines popped up everywhere.

“Everyone needs to keep their eye on the ball and be considerate of what this county will look like for our children and grandchildren in 50 years,” Best said.

Dedicated to finding a solution that better suits the needs of the county, Talbert said that the discussion will continue and he will bring forward a recommendation at the April hearing. Once the planning and zoning board comes to an agreement, they will take their recommendation to the board of county commissioners who have the final decision-making power.

“I invite anyone with ideas to please contact me,” Talbert said. “We want to come up with something that will work. Zoning isn’t supposed to be restrictive. It is there to make sure that we have a wonderful thriving community.”

By Bre Staal | Posted: Tue 12:48 PM, Jan 01, 2019  |  Updated: Tue 1:18 PM, Jan 01, 2019

MCKENZIE COUNTY, N.D. – Watford City and McKenzie County “Economy at a Glance” data shows an impressive October for the oil industry in the area.

The county hit a production record at 16,128,252 barrels of oil, the most ever produced. The county says it represents more than 40 percent of the state’s total. The data also shows the McKenzie County labor force was at 8,442 in October, and the county had an unemployment rate of 1.4 percent.

Oil Pump Jack, Photo Date: Dec. 27, 2014 / Photo: Pixabay / (MGN)

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 15 Days of Giving.   Below we have listed the Name of the Winner along with the prize won.

December 1,   Assorted Chocolates   won by Trinity Lynn Marie Sterns

December 2,    $10 Watford City Bucks won by Alecia Medina Rorex

December 3,     Larson’s Holiday Wall Decoration won by Shelly Rogness

December 4,     Holiday Station $25 gas card won by Amy Harness

December 5,     $100 Gift Certificate to Watford City Vet Clinic Won by Becky Larson

December 6,     Assorted Hot Chocolates won by TJ Leach

December 7,   Gift Certificate and Mug from Door 204 won by Diana P

December 8,     $20 Ace Gift Certificate won by Lindsay Wall

December 9,     2 Pies from Hometown Homemade won by Heather Walker

December 10,   $25 Gift Card to Common Grounds/Main Street Grind and $25 Gift card to Wake up Watford won by Ashley Saylor

December 11,     Giotto’s Family Dinner Won by Robie Kimball

December 12,     $50 Gift card to Little Missouri Grill Won by Tabitha Ortiz

December 13,     $50 Visa Gift Card from Cornerstone won by Dell Guzman

December 14,     $50 Gift Card to Jack and Jill won by Tricia Gorsegner

December 15,     Flavored Syrup set along with 2 Hot Chocolate mugs won by Leah Delisle

We had a great time with this for the 2018 Holiday Season and will bring it back again next year.   We appreciate all of the businesses Larsen Drug, Holiday Station, WC Vet Clinic, Door 204, Ace Hardware, Home Town Homemade, Common Grounds, Main Street Grind and Wake Up Watford, Giotto’s Pizza, Little Missouri Grill, Cornerstone Bank and Jack and Jill who contributed to our fun give away and also the Watford City Chamber of Commerce.  

We will be doing other fun and exciting things throughout the year so stay tuned and stop by to see one of our Agents for any of your Real Estate needs.

June 12, 2018 is Election Day! Please get out to VOTE, your VOTE matters!

Hess, Targa to build $150M Gas Plant

The city that re-invests in itself for a brighter future. Watford City is North Dakota’s finest development opportunity.

Hess Midstream Partners LP announced today the formation of a 50/50 joint venture with Targa Resources Corp. to construct a new 200 million standard cubic feet per day gas processing plant called Little Missouri Four (LM4). The new gas plant will be located at Targa’s existing Little Missouri facility, south of the Missouri River in McKenzie County, North Dakota. Read More…

STUDY: Watford City student numbers expected to top 3,000

January 12, 2016
Neal A. Shipman | Farmer Editor
With oil prices falling from their record high of over $100 a barrel to today’s prices in the lower $30 per barrel range, some would say that the “sky is falling” in McKenzie County and Watford City.
But according to a new enrollment study for the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1, the sky is hardly falling. And in fact, school administrators need to be planning for an annual 10 percent growth in student numbers for at least the next 10 years.
“Based on all of the demographic data that we have been able to obtain over the last several years, we see considerable enrollment growth for the district,” stated Rob Schwarz of RSP & Associates. “We are projecting that the district’s enrollment will grow by 10 percent a year for several years to come.” Click here to read the rest of the article.

Watford City population six times higher than pre-boom

January 12, 2016
Neal A. Shipman | Farmer Editor
With oil prices falling from their record high of over $100 a barrel to today’s prices in the lower $30 per barrel range, some would say that the “sky is falling” in McKenzie County and Watford City.
But according to a new enrollment study for the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1, the sky is hardly falling. And in fact, school administrators need to be planning for an annual 10 percent growth in student numbers for at least the next 10 years.
“Based on all of the demographic data that we have been able to obtain over the last several years, we see considerable enrollment growth for the district,” stated Rob Schwarz of RSP & Associates. “We are projecting that the district’s enrollment will grow by 10 percent a year for several years to come.” Click here to read the rest of the article.

Hess Corp. eyeing Watford City for potential field office

October 6, 2015
WATFORD CITY, N.D. — Hess Corp. is eyeing Watford City to possibly open a field office should oil prices recover.
Hess spokeswoman Maria Effertz-Hanson tells The Williston Herald the company has already looked at office space in Watford City.
The oil company moved its headquarters from Williston to Minot in 2009. However, Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford says the city is hoping to entice Hess to open an office in the area where half of its wells are located. Click here to read the rest of the article.

Good Production, Prices Concentrate in Four North Dakota Counties

August 20, 2015
The continued strong production and favorable breakeven prices for North Dakota’s Bakken Shale play are concentrated in four counties where the vast majority of the state’s greatly reduced number of drilling rigs are still operating, the latest county-by-county statistics show.

Out of 14 counties in which oil/gas production is ongoing, the vast majority of the production comes from Dunn, McKenzie, Mountrail and Williams counties, all of which are enjoying the lowest breakeven prices available in today’s globally depressed commodity prices, the state Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) reported earlier this week.

McKenzie County has more than one-third of the rigs still operating in the Bakken (26) and a breakeven price of $27/bbl, compared to a $29/bbl breakeven price and 58 active rigs in January. “The breakevens are so low in McKenzie because a typical well has an initial production rate [IP] of more than 3,000 b/d, and they are also high gas producers,” said DMR Director Lynn Helms.

The combination of high IP rates and “a very robust” gas revenue stream keeps the economics in McKenzie favorable for continued production, he said. “That drives some of those breakeven costs way down.” Click here to read the rest of the article.

Saudi Arabia may go broke before the US Oil Industry Buckles

August 11, 2015
It is too late for OPEC to stop the shale revolution. The cartel faces the prospect of surging US output whenever oil prices rise.

If the oil futures market is correct, Saudi Arabia will start running into trouble within two years. It will be in existential crisis by the end of the decade. The contract price of US crude oil for delivery in December 2020 is currently $62.05, implying a drastic change in the economic landscape for the Middle East and the petro-rentier states. The Saudis took a huge gamble last November when they stopped supporting prices and opted instead to flood the market and drive out rivals, boosting their own output to 10.6m barrels a day (b/d) into the teeth of the downturn.

Bank of America says OPEC is now “effectively dissolved”. The cartel might as well shut down its offices in Vienna to save money. Click here to read the rest of the article.

Building boom continues in Watford

July 7, 2015
While many communities in North Dakota’s oil patch are seeing a slowdown as a result of lower oil prices and fewer drilling rigs, that doesn’t seem to be happening in Watford City. In fact, because McKenzie County and Watford City are the epicenter of the state’s oil activity, city and county leaders predict that 2015 will see a continuation of the rapid building of housing and commercial space that was seen in 2014.

During the first six months of 2015, 167 building permits totaling $76.9 million have been issued by the City of Watford City. That compares to 184 permits totaling $52.4 million during the first six months of 2014.

“Most people know this area remains a very strong economic center,” said Gene Veeder, executive director for the McKenzie County Job Development Authority. “Things seem to be business as usual with the projects I am dealing with – some are in planning and financial stages, but are being met with general enthusiasm. Things remain positive and city and county planning staff are as busy as usual. I expect a very busy 2015. We will know a lot more by fall, but there are some nice projects coming.” Click here to read the rest of the article.
Fox Hills Village, Village on the Green Townhomes

Watford’s Taxable Sales Continue Solid Growth

July 7, 2015
While the level of drilling activity in North Dakota’s oil patch has fallen nearly 40 percent in the past year, that slowdown hasn’t appeared to have had as much of an economic impact in Watford City and McKenzie County as has been felt elsewhere in the region.

During the first quarter of 2015, taxable sales and purchases in Watford City and McKenzie County increased by nearly 11 percent, while the majority of cities and counties in the state’s oil patch saw their sales drop. Williston and Dickinson saw their sales drop by 10 percent during the first three months of 2015 when compared to last year’s numbers, while the cities of Stanley and Tioga saw sales declines of 13 and 25 percent, respectively. Click here to read the rest of the article.

Watford’s taxable sales top $283 million in 2014

May 19, 2015
Even though North Dakota oil prices began a downward spiral in the second half of 2014, Watford City’s and McKenzie County’s taxable sales continued to grow at more than a 30 percent pace according to the North Dakota Tax Department. For the calendar year of 2014, Watford City’s taxable sales and purchases grew 41.81 percent increasing from $199,626,637 in 2013 to $283,086,696 in 2014. During the same period, McKenzie County’s taxable sales increased from $245,805,412 to $342,746,082, a 39.44 percent increase. Click here to read the rest of the article.

Then and Now: Bakken Economy By The Numbers

April 08, 2015
“The numbers that we pulled together from 2013 are tremendously large, more so than what we’ve found with any study we’ve done to this point,” Bangsund noted during his talk.

For example, the $43 billion economic impact of the oil and gas industry is a 750 percent increase in the industry’s size since 2005, the first year the study was conducted. This represents a 303 percent increase in total jobs supported by the industry and a 991 percent increase in direct jobs. Click here to read the rest of the article.

Then and Now: Bakken Economy By The Numbers

April 08, 2015
“The numbers that we pulled together from 2013 are tremendously large, more so than what we’ve found with any study we’ve done to this point,” Bangsund noted during his talk.

For example, the $43 billion economic impact of the oil and gas industry is a 750 percent increase in the industry’s size since 2005, the first year the study was conducted. This represents a 303 percent increase in total jobs supported by the industry and a 991 percent increase in direct jobs. Click here to read the rest of the article.

Some Anxiety, But No Slowdown For North Dakota Oil Boom Town

March 20, 2015
Low oil prices are causing a drop in new drilling and exploration in North Dakota, but not as much as you might expect.

Take the boom town of Watford City, over in the northwestern corner of the state and in the heart of the Bakken oil patch. Its population has tripled since 2010, and today, continues to climb. When I visited a year ago for our series on the Great Plains Oil Rush, the price of oil was above $100 a barrel. When I went back recently — with the headlines warning of a crash coming fresh in my mind — it was below $50; a 50 percent decrease in a year. I figured I’d come upon empty hotels, the skeletons of half-built condos and people out of work …

Yeah, not so much. listen to the program »

Will Oil Price Collapse Hit Bakken Output?

Don’t Count on IT

February 13, 2015
There is some gloom but no doom. As of February 7 the oil rig count in North Dakota stood at 135, down from 172 in September and 192 a year earlier. As for staying power as an oil producer, North Dakota has 11 billion to 14 billion barrels of recoverable oil, according to the state, or 7.4 billion, according to the 2013 U.S. Geological Survey. click here !

Event Center Coming to Fox Hills Subdivision

February 9, 2015
The Event Center is scheduled to begin construction in March of 2015, and will be completed by the fall of 2016, which will be constructed next to the new Watford City High School that is being constructed in the Fox Hills Subdivision east of Watford City. click here!

Eye Of The Storm!

January 22, 2014
Outside the core area things are starting to get pretty quiet! The Bakken core area, which is located in the state’s four highest producing areas of McKenzie, Mountrail, Dunn and Williams counties, is two to three times as productive as much of the Bakken in general. But the main concentration of the Bakken core is in McKenzie County, which is why McKenzie County continues to outpace the other counties in oil and natural gas production. click here!

Price Reduction! Near New Bypass!

November 13, 2014
Take a look at this perfectly located property!
This 5 acre piece has the brand new bypass wrapping around it, making it highly visible, and is also located near a new commercial development called “The Crossings”. To see more of the property please watch our video, click here!

Watford City Bypass Now Open!

October 30, 2014
Watford City’s bypass is now open, and has much improved our town almost overnight! This addition has given Watford City back it’s small town feel, added safety, and greatly reduced traffic through town. To read more about the new bypass, click here.