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Man camps get a win in quest to stay open in Williston

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Man Camps

The Target Logistics facilities near Williston accommodate more than 1,000 workers.

Williston man camp operators got a win Tuesday when a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction that prevents the city from enforcing a ban on temporary housing.

The man camps were expected to close July 1, but a ruling by U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland says the camp operators “are likely to prevail” with one of their arguments.

Target Logistics and Lodging Solutions, which jointly own and operate 1,035 worker housing beds north of Williston, challenged the temporary housing ban in federal court on several grounds, including arguing that it was improperly enacted by the city.

Williston City Commissioners considered the matter in two separate heated meetings, voting 3-2 both times.

Under Williston’s zoning ordinances, the ban on temporary housing would have needed a 4-1 supermajority vote if 20 percent or more of businesses affected protested.

Operators of several man camps signed a Nov. 24, 2015, protest letter, including Target Logistics and Lodging Solutions. Target Logistics verbally withdrew its protest during a November meeting but none of the other protests were withdrawn.

During the meeting, city commissioner Brad Bekkedahl questioned city attorney Jordon Evert about whether the protests reached the 20 percent threshold. Evert said he’d received the protests too late to determine an answer at that meeting.

Judge Hovland writes in his ruling that city commissioners could have clarified the matter by asking questions during the meeting or postponing the vote until they got clarification.

“In a rush to judgment, that investigation was never completed before the vote was taken,” Hovland writes.

City officials later justified the 3-2 vote after the fact, Hovland wrote.

The man camp operators and city officials disagree on whether the protest met the 20 percent threshold, primarily because they disagree on how many acres are affected by the ordinance.

In granting the preliminary injunction, Hovland writes that the man camp operators are likely to prevail on their claim that the ordinance was never validly enacted by the city of Williston. Hovland writes that the city can’t enforce the ordinance until further order from the court.

Halliburton joined the man camp operators in challenging the ordinance in federal court. Although other companies didn’t join the court case, Hovland’s ruling would apply to all man camps governed by Williston’s temporary housing ordinance.


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