June 24, 2013 2:00 am  •  Tribune editorial
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No spot on the map will be labeled Bakken Village.

The developers of a proposed new city in western North Dakota withdrew their application from the Williams County Commission.

To not build Bakken Village was the right choice.

Despite a demand for additional housing, local officials and taxpayers did not need the challenge of providing basic infrastructure to a new community. Getting the job done for existing towns and cities in western North Dakota is challenge and expense enough.

Further, there are signs that the Bakken oil boom has started to move to its next phase, becoming more focused on production and maintenance. Growth is no longer exponential. Merely very strong. The curves showing demand for workers and housing have begun to flatten out. North Dakotans have learned from past oil booms that it’s possible to overbuild. There’s talk of that already when it comes to hotel rooms in Dickinson and Minot. No one wants to be the community that gets caught holding the bag.

Judging how much is enough isn’t easy.

The ramp-up for housing and everything else in the oil patch had been steep. Existing homes and apartment buildings were snapped up early. As more and more workers arrived in the state’s oil-producing counties, their need for housing outpaced new construction. Alternative housing became the norm. The growing demand for a basic place to live for workers led to the development of man camps.

One group of developers proposed creating a new city north of Williston -- Bakken Village.

Four Front Design had proposed creating a new incorporated community. It would have a school, downtown shopping area and golf course along the Little Muddy River.

The firm has experience. In 2005, the company developed the town of Summerset between Rapid City and Sturgis in South Dakota.

The idea of building a new town from scratch might be attractive, like owning a new car. But communities, unlike cars, are long lived, and their infrastructure evolves as does the town.

Right now, local and state government are leveraging as much capital as possible to improve existing infrastructure for Williston, Watford City, Stanley, Dickinson and other western North Dakota communities. Spending funds on a new community, with an all encompassing need for new infrastructure would take resources away from existing communities. North Dakota, surplus or not, can’t afford that kind of spending.



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