RPT-North Dakota 'man camps' battle pending ban in oil capital

Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:00am EST
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(Repeats Nov. 23 item with no changes to text)

By Ernest Scheyder

WILLISTON, N.D. Nov 23 (Reuters) - Providers of temporary housing for North Dakota's oilfield workers are fighting a plan by the state's energy capital to evict their "man camps," fearing it could set an example for others and add to the sector's woes caused by a global commodity slump.

Earlier this month, the Williston City Commission voted 3-2 in favor of an ordinance that would deny "man camps" occupancy permit extensions beyond July 2016.

Should the ordinance pass in a final vote on Nov. 24, which appears likely, it would mark the first time since the U.S. shale boom began in 2008 that a community has evicted a "man camp," though other communities in Texas and North Dakota have blocked their arrival or expansion.

Williston leaders say it is time for oilfield workers to plant permanent roots or use existing hotels for extended stays and point out to abundant new permanent housing in this city with an estimated population of about 31,000.

"The man camp industry should understand we allowed them to come here on a temporary basis," said Howard Klug, Williston's mayor, who favors permanent housing that fosters a more family-friendly feel and also generates higher tax revenues.

Shoring up their defenses, temporary housing companies have warned that some 200 of their employees could be laid off in the area, a step that would further hurt a local economy sagging due to falling oil prices. They also hinted that their donations to churches, schools and other community groups could dry up.