Growth brings concerns

Ninth District cities enjoy expansion, but some face new issues as growth reaches to the prairies

David Fettig | Editor

Published October 1, 1996  | October 1996 issue

If you step on an open tube of toothpaste, there's only one place for that toothpaste to go. And if you could step on the city of Fargo, N.D., figuratively speaking, there would only be one place for the people to go: south.

The metaphor is Keith Burkholder's, Fargo's planning director, and he uses it to describe his city's growth pattern in recent years. Hemmed in by the Red River to the east, West Fargo to the west, and sewage lagoons, industry and an airport to the north, Fargo has been crawling south in recent years.

And this development has posed concerns for one of North Dakota's fastest growing communities: "We've stretched to the south so far that it costs big bucks to go any farther," Burkholder says.

Many regional centers in the Ninth District face issues related to growth, and this issue of the fedgazette looks at four examples: In Billings, Mont., "ranchette" style developments west of the city have caught local officials' attention; in St. Cloud, Minn., officials hope that the city's frenzied rate of annexation will subside, even as more rural developments clamor for urban infrastructure; and in Sioux Falls, S.D., a strict growth management policy is expected to meet the city's continued expansion into the next century.

Some of the growth in the Ninth District's larger cities has come from an unlikely source: nearby rural areas. At the same time that many predict the further demise of rural America, recent trends in population growth reveal a turnaround and suggest that rural areas are making a comeback. As the analysis shows, much of the gain in rural population in the Ninth District has come in counties surrounding larger cities, or regional growth centers. ["Is trend destiny?"]

The growth in and around these cities is expected to continue into the next century, and while city officials interviewed in the following stories look forward to more growth, they are also increasingly aware of new concerns that steady expansion can bring, such as pressure on roads and infrastructure. After recent years of strong growth, some cities—like St. Cloud—are looking to slow down, others—like Fargo—are looking for more room to grow.