WATFORD CITY, N.D. — A large indoor RV park that opened in Watford City in 2013 has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court asking that state officials be forced to renew the park's operating license, or in the alternative, pay the RV park at least $5 million.

In its suit, the North Dakota Indoor RV Park alleges that the park, which can house about 160 recreational vehicles, has invested $5 million in specialized equipment based on an expectation that state officials would continue issuing operating licenses "on the same basis" as the original license was issued.

The suit added, however, that in late 2020 the park was informed by the North Dakota Department of Health that the park's operating license for 2021 would not be re-issued unless new "cost-prohibitive" conditions were met.

The North Dakota Indoor RV Park, pictured shortly after opening in 2013.
Forum News Service file photo
The North Dakota Indoor RV Park, pictured shortly after opening in 2013. Forum News Service file photo

The suit also states that in March the park was notified its license would not be renewed, and continued operation would subject the park to criminal penalties.

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The suit says that notification was based largely on an inspection report developed by the North Dakota Fire Marshal's Office and applied to both the indoor and outdoor aspects of the park's operations.

Friction between the park and state officials arose as early as 2016, when state fire officials began raising safety questions in connection with how the park operated.

According to the suit, in 2018, the state Fire Marshal's Office issued an order halting residential use of the park.

The order was appealed. Before there was any judicial resolution of the issue, the Fire Marshal's Office abandoned its order seeking a halt to residential use of the park's buildings, according to the lawsuit.

The suit also states that despite abandoning its 2018 abatement order, the Fire Marshal's Office coordinated with the Department of Health to conduct an inspection of the park in June of 2020.

That inspection led the Fire Marshal's Office to issue a report listing some of the same alleged safety concerns cited in the agency's abandoned abatement order, according to the suit, which also asserts that the Fire Marshal's Office "sought to circumvent the park’s right to judicial review ... by using the Department of Health as a 'backdoor' to enforce the abandoned abatement order."

According to information contained in the lawsuit:

The indoor portion of the RV park consists of ten insulated buildings equipped to house 160 RVs.

Each building is sectioned into eight bays, with each 50-foot-wide bay able to accommodate two RVs.

The buildings provide: fire protection, carbon monoxide and smoke detection and climate control for the occupants.

Water, electric and gas hookups are available for each RV lot inside each bay.

The outdoor aspect of the park consists of 60 lots with utility and sewer hookups.

A commons building provides residents with mailboxes and laundry facilities, as well as a gathering room with couches, recliners, TVs, vending machines, pool tables and restrooms.

Defendants named in the suit include the Department of Health and the Fire Marshal's Office.

The North Dakota Attorney General's Office, which is representing the defendants, said in a written response to a request for comment that the state denies the allegations made in the suit and will answer the claims "in due course."

A call to the North Dakota Indoor RV park was answered by a recorded voice stating that the park was temporarily closed but that storage space was available for rental.