Those interested in running in the special Bismarck City Commission race on Nov. 4 may begin circulating petitions for signatures Saturday. The race will fill the unexpired term of Mike Seminary who vacated the seat in June when he was elected mayor. The term expires in June 2016.

Candidates who want to be listed on the ballot must obtain 300 valid signatures of Bismarck residents who are age 18 or older. Signatures must be submitted by 4 p.m. Sept. 2 to the Bismarck auditor’s office.

The special city commission race will be held at the same time as the general election.

Sales tax

The Mandan Sales Tax Committee will gauge reactions to a proposed half-cent sales tax through a focus group Aug. 13. The event will begin 6:30 p.m. at the Mandan Middle School.

Members of the public are welcome to attend and will have an opportunity to provide comments through a print questionnaire. An online survey also will be posted with a public announcement issued following the informational presentation.

The focus group will consist of approximately 30 people representing a cross-section of the community including citizens, business representatives, and recreational and sports organization members. The focus group will be asked a series of questions in an interactive setting using handheld electronic devices. Results of each question, or informal poll, will be displayed for further discussion.

Mandan now charges a 1 percent sales tax that is used to help buy down property taxes, economic development and for various infrastructure projects.

With the combined county jail sales tax starting Oct. 1, residents shopping in Mandan will pay another half-cent sales tax until jail building costs are paid off. The state also charges a 5 percent retail sales tax.

The proposed new half-cent sales tax would be used to pay for park, city and other public improvements. The focus group members will be asked if they favor certain projects and if they want another sales tax for the city. One project considered by the Mandan Park District is a new hockey rink.

Apartment controversy

The Bismarck Planning and Zoning Commission has approved a rezoning request for a 948-unit apartment development at Edgewood Seventh Addition for IRET Properties. The rezoning request allows building height limits to increase from 60 feet to 75 feet. The units include two stories of underground parking. The nearly 35 acres of property lies between 43rd Avenue to the north and Knutson Avenue to the south. It will be located north of the future Legacy High School.

Matt Sagaser, representing 130 residents from Grand Prairie Estates, said 43rd Avenue is not a major thoroughfare as a two-lane. It cannot handle traffic from 948 apartments and the extra traffic from the new school, he said.

Mayor Mike Seminary spoke in favor of the development, saying it would help make more affordable housing available.

Jason Tomanek, a planner for the city, said the planned use development zoning would give the city more control over design. He showed how the design had changed from flat-top units to better blend in with rural residential homes just to the north of 43rd Avenue and will add more vegetation to buffer the apartment from rural residents’ view. The living units will have 40 to 92 apartments each and are designed to have underground parking.

Tomanek said the city has no immediate plans to annex the rural residential developments just north of 43rd Avenue near the development. Rural residents north of 43rd Avenue will keep their rural zoning, he said. Many residents complained they were not notified by the city of the hearing. Tomanek said the city notified 90 households one-quarter mile to the north and 350 feet away in all other directions.

The Bismarck City Commission will make the final decision on the rezoning request at a date to be announced.

Reach LeAnn Eckroth at 701-250-8264 or