'VisionWest ND' planning process continuing

Feb 7, 2014

Representatives of western North Dakota counties impacted by oil development are working on regional planning.

The VisionWest ND Consortium met in Minot Thursday to discuss the issues that cross county lines – and coming up with plans on how to deal with those issues.

“Housing is the first and foremost," said Karalee Cox, a planner with Arizona-based “Building Communities” – the firm the consortium hired to help with the planning process. "Water, child care, transportation and emergency services -- those were identified as the most pressing issues across the region."

Cox says other issues were identified -- such as education, health care and "crowding out" -- rents going too high and people moving away beacuse they can't afford to live in the area any more. She says any planning documents can be used as guidelines…but can also be adapted to local needs. And she says it will be future-looking.

“We have a 20 year outlook," said Cox. "That's a little difficult to do in a booming economy."

Cox says there is some uncertainty about how long the boom will last.

"I have heard frequently from local residents, 'Oh, we've been through this before, and this won't last,'" said Cox. "I don't blame them. But this is trying to address both scenarios -- if growth continues, how do we address that? And if things were to bust, how do we make sure we've done what we needed to do so that what growth we have is sustainable."

The Coalition will present its findings to state policy-makers in Bismarck in March.