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Published February 19, 2013, 08:50 AM

Williston eyes ordinance to ban downtown man camps

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — Officials in the booming oil city of Williston are working to keep so-called man camps from going up in its downtown.

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — Officials in the booming oil city of Williston are working to keep so-called man camps from going up in its downtown.

City commissioners last week voted to approve the first reading of an ordinance change that would no longer allow people to live in residences behind, below and above downtown businesses.

Planning and Zoning Director Ken Jarcik said the ordinance allowing such residences downtown was created before the city's population skyrocketed due to the oil boom.

"No one knew where all this was going," Jarcik said. "No one had any idea we were going to be where we are today."

Williston is in the heart of North Dakota's oil patch. The state is second largest oil-producing state in the country, trailing only Texas.

When Williston officials passed the existing ordinance to allow residences downtown, the city had been struggling and was in dire need of investment, officials said.

But as the housing situation became more strained, letting people live downtown became problematic.

The ordinance "was getting pushed well beyond what was ever intended," Jarcik said.

Staff Planner Rachel Ressler said the ordinance change would minimize "man camp-like situations," or crew camps housing sometimes dozens of oil workers in a dormitory-type setting.

"Our ideal downtown is somewhere that's vibrant, with stores and restaurants," Ressler told commissioners.

Commissioner Howard Klug told the Williston Herald (http://bit.ly/YwkoX0 ) that the ordinance change would also keep people from living in shoddy conditions.

"Sure, we need places to live in Williston," he said. "But who really needs to live like that?"

Commissioners said they hope to have the new plan finished this year.

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