- Associated Press - Thursday, August 11, 2016

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - Williston’s City Commission has given initial approval to a new ordinance that will eliminate oil field crew camps in city limits late this summer, over the objection of workforce housing companies who are continuing to battle in court.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland in June ordered the city not to enforce a July 1 shut-down deadline, basing his decision on a possible technical error by the City Commission when the group voted in November 2015 to approve the mid-summer date. The question was whether there were enough protests to require the commission to cast a supermajority vote, rather than a simple majority.

Officials drafted a new ordinance, and commissioners gave it initial approval this week with a supermajority vote, the Williston Herald reported (https://bit.ly/2aNBphg ). Final approval is likely later this month.

The ordinance sets a Sept. 1 deadline for crew camps to shut down, with companies given about another two years to clean up and reclaim the sites. The city also will allow operators to seek permission to reopen the sites in the future, if warranted by demand.

“If (oil) pricing conditions warrant, we’re not going to see the rig count (in North Dakota’s oil patch) go from 30 to 40, we’re going to see the rig count go over 100,” Commissioner Brad Bekkedahl said.

City officials maintain the construction of new apartments and hotels has caught up with population growth in the oil patch hub, and temporary worker camps are no longer needed. Oil industry officials say some temporary housing is still needed for rotational workers, despite the current oil slump.

Workforce housing companies have sued Williston in federal and state court, saying they’re being treated unfairly.

Ben Tymann, an attorney representing Target Logistics, Lodging Solutions and Halliburton, told city commissioners this week that “the city should not be picking winners and losers.”

Bekkedahl responded that, “the city has to stand on the issue that we can control our jurisdiction to some degree.”

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Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com

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