Posted 7/06/11 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
The city of Arnegard could very well be on the brink of seeing the biggest population boom that it has ever seen within the next few months. But that boom is contingent on the Arnegard City Council approving a zoning change request by Phil Moen to change the zoning of 22 acres of property he owns within the city limits of Arnegard from agriculture to residential.
If the city council approves the zoning change, as well as conditional use permit on the property at its July 13 meeting, Moen will lease the property to Capital Lodging of Round Rock, Texas, which intends to construct a whole new concept in work force housing on the property.
“We’ve come up with a great plan that will work well with the community of Arnegard,” states Randy Baker, project manager with Capital Oilfield Services. “What we are proposing to build in Arnegard is a subdivision that will provide housing for 280 people.”
According to Baker, the plans for the 24-hour security monitored, gated subdivision in Arnegard include bringing in 13 three to four-bedroom manufactured homes that would be available to people whom he refers to as Local Infrastructure Support Personnel (LISP) as well as executive style lodging for approximately 200 oilfield workers. In addition, the company would be providing a 24-hour, seven day a week dining facility for the oilfield workers and providing shuttle service to minimize traffic issues.
“The term (LISP) is something that we’ve come up with to best describe people in the area that need affordable housing,” states Baker. “We intend to make these manufactured homes available to teachers, law enforcement personnel and other local people under controlled leases who need to have affordable housing. Basically, the oilfield will be providing the subsidy for these units.”
But, according to Baker, the company is not going to stop at just providing affordable housing in their efforts to be good neighbors in Arnegard.
“We will be building a movie theater as well as a domed recreation center that will include a swimming pool and hot tubs within our subdivision,” stated Baker. “In addition, we will be providing a waste water lagoon for the entire city, upgrading the county and township roads leading to the new subdivision and providing a new park in the area.”
Is this a dream come true for the city of Arnegard and its residents?
The answer swings from yes to no depending on who you talk to and on which day the question is asked.
There are those that are absolutely opposed to the whole concept such as April Obenour.
“It sucks. I don’t want it,” states Obenour. “I lived in Gillette, Wyo., for 20 years and I saw what happened there when it was a boom town.”
Others, such as Niel Nelson and his wife, Maxine, are taking more of a middle-of-the-road approach.
“I’m absolutely neutral on the whole thing,” states Niel. “But what scares me is how these companies say how great it is going to be and then they don’t live up to what they say they are going to do. But I do have to say to their credit, they (Capital Lodging) have thrown out a very nice program.”
The biggest plus that Maxine Nelson sees with the proposal is that new housing will be made available to area residents, but she still has concerns.
“It sounds too good to be true,” states Maxine. “I want to see it done properly, but I don’t want to see it downgrade our town.”
And according to Baker, their plans are not to downgrade Arnegard at all. In fact, he hopes that it will be the boost that Arnegard needs to keep going forward.
“Small towns, like Arnegard, haven’t benefitted at all by the oil development,” states Baker. “And we don’t think that is right. We think that what we are proposing in Arnegard will become a model of things to come.”
And Virginia Elliot, Arnegard’s mayor, is of the belief that if the city can work closely with Capitol Lodging, it could benefit the city.
“We can’t stop the oil boom,” states Elliot. “So if we can get some housing and city improvements out of the process, then I think that it’s a good thing.”
Baker, along with Sonny Alford, project manager with Morgan Chase Management, who will be providing the day-to-day supervision of the area, recognize that the concept that is being proposed in Arnegard is raising questions. But they are working hard to get the city’s questions answered.
“There are so many fears,” states Alford. “People are concerned about things like food, roads and law enforcement. But we hope that by meeting with the city officials, city residents and law enforcement agencies, we can reassure everyone that we will be good neighbors.”
If the Arnegard City Council looks favorably on Moen’s zoning change request and the conditional use permit that will clear the way for Capital Lodging to move forward with their plans, Baker is hopeful that the company can break ground in August and have some units in place by September.
“This will be a pretty historic moment for the city of Arnegard if this goes through,” states Baker.