February 3, 2015

City has a building boom in 2014

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

The value of building permits issued in Watford City reached an all-time high in 2014 of over $242 million. That number is triple the valuation of building permits issued in 2013, when the city issued $76.7 million in permits for new construction. That is an astronomical amount of development taking place in what was once described as a sleepy farming hamlet.
“From 2013 to 2014, we’ve seen a lot more building and residential permits for apartments, townhouses, duplexes, etc.,” said Seth Sampson, assistant city planner for the City of Watford City. “And I think we’ll continue to see a lot of residential permits. Commercial-wise, the ‘South Park’ area had a huge year for growth in 2014, and it continues to grow, and I think it will definitely grow over the next year as well.”
The number of total permits issued almost doubled from 2013 to 2014. The City of Watford City issued 262 permits in 2013 and jumped to 511 in 2014.
According to Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford, the city is seeing developers and investors, even from overseas, still coming to Watford City, in spite of the falling oil prices.
“Last quarter was really high for us,” said Sanford. “And that’s when oil prices started dropping. We’re so far away from what we still need here, in terms of infrastructure and development, and we still have a long way to go. Housing is still needed. Rents are still $3,000 a month; they haven’t dropped. We’ll have less tax revenue to work with if oil prices stay low, but we’ll still have the same people and needs. It’s going to be a real challenge, however, without the extra tax revenue.”
In 2013, the city issued permits for 34 single family homes, and then issued four times that amount in 2014, to build 147 single family homes. In 2013, permits were issued to build 12 duplexes, and that number increased 15 times in 2014, in which the city issued permits to build 177 duplexes. Lastly, in 2013, the city issued permits for apartment buildings that provided 89 total apartment units. In 2014, that number steeply grew from 89 units to 1,152 total apartment units.
“Our infrastructure plan is pretty aggressive,” said Sanford. “If funding is coming from the Legislature, I think we’ll do more units in 2015 than in 2014. But it will depend on what the developers can do on their own if we don’t get the funding we are hoping for.”
Even with oil prices at an all-time low, Sanford and other city officials are not as worried, and are actually quite hopeful for the future. They currently don’t see a big drop in people here.
“We are still going to drill all of these wells,” said Sanford. “But we’ll have some time to catch up. It’s the first time in four years that we’ll have a chance to catch up. The layoffs and  closing of oil rigs are happening a lot in other places, not as much here. Conoco is here and they aren’t downsizing. And I know of one oil company who is moving their rigs from Texas to North Dakota. I think it’s generally in other locations right now.”
Sampson feels that with the addition of the bypasses, and once the city gets caught up with the main arterial streets, there will be a lot of new growth.
“As we get caught up with our roads, commercial development will grow,” said Sampson. “Especially around the highway corridors, the bypasses, along Highways 85 and 23, and the big developments like Hunter’s Run and The Crossings. South of Main Street all the way to the bypass is what we call a ‘natural commercial corridor.’ And I am expecting that it will probably be filled with commercial properties.”
With a hopeful outlook, numbers that don’t lie and continue to increase, one can safely assume that development and infrastructure is far from seeing an end in sight.
“We are seeing more and more developers coming into town,” said Sampson. “And they are coming to build big offices and other commercial and residential developments.”