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Williston may outlaw 'out-of-control' RV housing

WILLISTON, N.D. - Using a camper as a home in Williston could soon become illegal, but it's unclear where the town's hundreds of RV residents would park themselves.

Williston has an estimated 300 to 400 campers
Williston has an estimated 300 to 400 campers with people living in them due to a severe housing shortage. A proposed city ordinance would make it illegal to live in an RV within the city. Amy Dalrymple / Forum Communications Co.

WILLISTON, N.D. - Using a camper as a home in Williston could soon become illegal, but it's unclear where the town's hundreds of RV residents would park themselves.

Members of the City Commission have approved the first reading of an ordinance that makes it illegal to live in a camper in city limits unless it is in an RV park. They're discussing making it a Class B misdemeanor, subject to a $500 fine.

"We have been inundated with people coming here with no place to live," Williston Mayor Ward Koeser said Tuesday night during a commission meeting.

Williston Police Chief James Lokken estimates there are 300 to 400 campers in parking lots, yards, driveways and other areas throughout town that would be illegal under the law.

City Commissioner Tate Cymbaluk said the campers are posing health and safety risks to the community. The RVs are already "out of control," and commissioners fear that it's only going to get worse as the construction season gets under way, he said.


"Our intent is not to just kick people out," Cymbaluk said. "Our intent is to get some control."

Palmer Reising, who lives in an RV just outside of Williston city limits, called the ordinance "pointless" and said people are going to disregard it because they don't have another option.

"People will continue to come. They're going to flock to Williston and they're going to park their motor homes wherever they can find a place," said Reising, an oil field shop manager from Cincinnati. "You may as well outlaw boots in Williston. Nothing is going to happen. People are going to keep doing it."

Commissioners will consider the second reading of the ordinance in two weeks. Cymbaluk said they would likely postpone the effective date of the ordinance.

A Catch-22 for the commissioners is that many of the RVs are occupied by construction workers who are building permanent housing in Williston.

Cymbaluk said commissioners also are discussing a possible allowance for a certain number of RV spots to be approved at construction sites.

Williston is the county seat for Williams County, which also prohibits people from living in a camper that is not part of an RV park under the county's moratorium on temporary housing, said Williams County Commissioner Dan Kalil.

"I am worried about a spillover effect into the county," Kalil said. "We're trying to expedite some approval of RV parks so they can get up and running."


Concerns about residents of RVs improperly disposing of sewage and campers with faulty wiring are some of the reasons for the moratorium, Kalil said.

"It's not that we're against them, it's just that it's unsafe and unhealthy living conditions," Kalil said.

Dalrymple is a Forum Communications Co. reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. She can be reached at (701) 580-6890.

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