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Man camp permit OK'd as $400 million fertilizer plant construction nears

BEULAH, N.D. - While some man camps are disappearing in the Oil Patch of western North Dakota, a permit was granted this week for a new one here.

BEULAH, N.D. – While some man camps are disappearing in the Oil Patch of western North Dakota, a permit was granted this week for a new one here.

Capital Lodge, an Oil Patch housing provider, wants to move empty units into Beulah to house workers during construction of a urea fertilizer plant at Dakota Gasification Co. The $400 million project will require 750 workers at peak next summer through fall.

But residents aren't all that thrilled. It was another crowded Beulah City Council meeting Monday night, as the city approved a conditional use permit for a man camp near the city's industrial park and across from a residential subdivision.

About 40 people filled the room for the third time, concerned about having as many as 400 workers in their neighborhood and the potential for crime, clogged and unsafe streets and stress on city services.

The city had slowed the application process to give residents time to put their concerns into the permit conditions. But for some people, piling on nine pages of detailed conditions didn't make the concept necessarily more palatable even as it began to seem inevitable.

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"We knew it would pass," said neighbor Kurt Kruger. "The conditions ... you don't get what you want, you get what you can live with."

Cathy Oyen, another neighbor, said she learned, "You know the old saying, you can't fight city hall."

After a discussion among the council, Beulah approved a one-year permit at the urging of city attorney Scott Solem. "I can't imagine that whatever we've done here won't need some revision here and there," he said.

The council tacked on a $600 fee per bed per year, a $400,000 reclamation bond, the requirement to do a traffic study and other conditions, including situations that could cause the facility's license to be revoked, such as police calls and actionable complaints.

David Brown, operations manager for Capital Lodge, said now that it knows what's in the conditions, it'll go back to the design and engineering group to see what's feasible.

"Until now, we haven't known what rules we were playing under," Brown said.

He said the group will have to calculate whether the project can still work with the fees and time remaining.

Richard Jurgens said it's important to residents that Capital Lodge build the facilities they presented early on when they came to town-the dining, the laundry, exercise room and other services. "There should not be any question about that, "he said.

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Councilman Roger Gazur agreed on that point. "We want to be ensured that what was presented is what is constructed," he said, adding that if not, it could be similar to agreeing to your neighbor's cow until he shows up with a giraffe.

Councilman Ben Lenzen questioned whether Beulah was truly ready to proceed with the conditions, based on gaps or ambiguities in the language.

"We should have in here what city wants to see so we don't waste everybody's time on a permit that's missing some of the major issues," Lenzen said.

Councilman Clyde Schulz urged moving the process forward because the city will have another checkpoint when the actual building permit comes in.

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