GRAND FORKS – The Grand Forks City Council gave approval to changes in the city’s landscaping ordinances and the city’s alcohol license ordinance at its Monday night meeting.
The landscaping ordinance is now fully approved and a part of the city’s code, while the alcohol licensing changes was the first approval, it still needs a second reading and public hearing to be fully approved. Both were passed unanimously by the council.
The City Council and the planning and zoning commission have been discussing changes to the city’s landscaping and bufferyard codes since September. According to the city planning department’s staff report to the City Council, the section of the city code had been outdated for some time.
“The planting requirements within bufferyards also becomes more intense higher the current bufferyards go, to the point of being unsustainable, as plants cannot thrive in such high densities, leading property owners to incur increased expenses at the time of permitting that are not going to feasibly last long term,” the planning departments staff report said.
The new changes account for planting schedules and necessary spacing for healthy plants, and also includes mechanisms for the city planner to approve modifications depending on specific site conditions and an appeal for city planner decisions through the planning and zoning commission.
The changes also update the suggested plantings list the city has for plants ranging from shade trees to perennials. Additionally, it makes the code easier for city staff to enforce and will bring the code into more realistic ground with industry guidelines for plantings.
Since September, the city has been working with local nurseries, the Grand Forks Park District and landscaping companies about how best to change and amend code. The changes in the bufferyard matrix and requirements were made with the input of the local landscaping industry in mind.
Bufferyards and landscaping requirements are common parts in many cities’ codes. Bufferyards are a form of screening, whether for noise, light, privacy or all of the above. They’re required for when an office-use property is adjacent to a multiplex property, for instance. In the city’s bufferyard matrix, there are 135 combinations of required bufferyard depending on property use and what the adjacent property use is.
Alcohol licensing changes
The City Council also gave the first round of approval to changes in the city’s alcohol licensing, allowing hotels in the city to once again have service, mini and convenience bars. The change comes from a request from the new Olive Ann Hotel, which wanted to have these features, but they weren’t covered under the city’s code.
The code change will allow the Olive Ann to have these features. Before the change, the city had not gotten this request in many years and struck it from code as part of the regular code clean-up process. The council approved a special meeting on Nov. 27 to revisit and give final approval of the ordinance change.
In other news, the City Council:
- Tabled the approval of bids for the Washington Street underpass. The North Dakota Department of Transportation is leading the project and bidding will not open until Jan. 26, 2024.
- Waived Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota’s offer to cap rates for 2025. Blue Cross Blue Shield said it would cap the rate increase at 13%, but under the condition that the city didn’t open the plan to other carriers. The city wanted to be able to keep the benefit package competitive and be able to potentially open the health insurance bidding to other companies. Agreeing to this would limit the ability to do that, according to the city’s human resources department.
Voigt covers city government in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.