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Simplot plans $30 million freezer expansion in Grand Forks, N.D.

J.R. Simplot Co. is planning a $30 million expansion to its north Grand Forks potato processing plant, according to a city memo, though a company employee said corporate approval is still pending.

J.R. Simplot Co. is planning a $30 million expansion to its north Grand Forks potato processing plant, according to a city memo, though a company employee said corporate approval is still pending.

The Grand Forks Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously offered preliminary approval to a series of requests Wednesday from the Idaho-based agribusiness giant related to the expansion, which includes a "high bay freezer" that would be in excess of 110,000 square feet and 165 feet tall, according to a city staff report. The addition would be north of Simplot's refrigeration unit.

The freezer is a "rack-supported building" with 13 storage levels for "finished product."

"The purpose of the HBF is to freeze and store frozen product in preparation for shipping to customers and serve as a primary distribution center for the Simplot Co.," the city report stated.

Simplot's Grand Forks operation produces french fries, "tater gems" and hashbrowns, according to the company's website. The products are sold throughout the U.S. and to international customers, including restaurant chains and distributors, according to the website.

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The commission approved three separate items on Wednesday evening, which helped simplify a legal description of Simplot's Grand Forks property and pave the way for zoning that would allow the building's construction. Approval was made with commission members Meggen Sande, Jim Galloway, Steven Adams, Peter Kuhn and Mayor Mike Brown absent; it was not immediately clear to a city official if Paula Lee's phone connection to the meeting was intact during the vote.

A presentation given on the project noted a potential September start date for construction, with a completion date 12 to 15 months later.

Though a Simplot spokesman did not get back to the Herald about details on the expansion project Wednesday, Tal Elseth, a unit director for Simplot, told the commission the project is being reviewed by the company.

"We're researching the opportunity," he said. "We're going after these changes for preliminary approval to get things laid out in case this does get approved, but it's not a done deal."

Approached after the meeting, Elseth declined to comment further and directed inquiries to Simplot's corporate offices.

Commissioner Frank Matejcek said he's enthusiastic about the project.

"They're processing agricultural products in the valley here, so it's a big deal," he said, though he pointed out he'd like to see North 36th Street extended to intersect with 27th Avenue North to help ease truck traffic in the area.

Brad Gengler, director of the city's planning and community development department, said he's looking forward to the project, too.

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"We're excited about that one," Gengler said.

Other Business

The Commission unanimously approved a measure that allows the construction of a clubhouse at the McEnroe Place apartment complex near 3750 Garden View Drive-a contentious matter for some nearby residents that in the last month resulted in concessions from developer Dakota Commercial to include nearby landscaping. The clubhouse is nonresidential and was approved unanimously.

The commission also approval to a rerouted course for a bike path around forthcoming apartments at the Simonson Apartments at 820 N. Third St. Instead of bisecting the property, the path now follows North Third Street before turning right at Ninth Avenue North to rejoin its original route.

The decision requires City Council approval.

This story has been updated to more accurately reflect a Simplot spokesman's comments.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA
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