Residents of about 30 recreational vehicles in Williston, N.D., are abruptly moving out of a camp this week after the owner told them he’s closing because it was recently annexed into city limits.
Inforum.com reported that owner Kenny Willard said he told residents they need to start moving out of the camp that’s adjacent to his home in northwest Williston. His property is now within the city limits of the oil boom town, where living in an RV is illegal and subject to a $500 per day fine.
Williston Mayor Ward Koeser said city leaders have not taken any action to force the campers to move or to begin enforcing other ordinances in the recently annexed area.
“We’re going to give people time to respond if they need to make changes,” Koeser said. “Until we get a chance to review a number of issues, we probably won’t be doing anything.”
But Willard said he feared he would be subject to fines if he didn’t remove the campers from his property.
“I’m not going to put myself into that predicament,” Willard said. “I can’t put myself into the jeopardy of losing everything that I worked for all my life because I tried to help someone.”
Willard said he gave residents varying levels of notice to move out, ranging from 24 hours to 30 days, depending on when they had paid rent.
Many residents said Willard didn’t warn them about how the annexation would affect the camp, but Willard said, “Everyone has been talking about it for six months.”
Resident Bryan McCoy, who moved from Grand Forks to Williston for “money, just like everybody else,” said he was aware of the annexation, but Willard told him the camp would stay open until spring or summer. McCoy said Willard also indicated that he was going to open another camp and that McCoy was going to be one of the first ones to live there because he always paid rent.
McCoy had several days before he had to move out, but he has already quit his job working for an oil field service company and given away his camper.
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On Sept. 1, people in Williston, N.D., will officially be banned from living in RVs or campers inside city limits.
According to a report by KFYR TV, Bismarck, that means an estimated 400 people are about to be forced out of town – most coming to Williston because of the area’s oil boom. People are scrambling to find open lots for their RVs outside of town before deadline, but there simply aren`t any available.
A huge RV park north of town was supposed to be completed by Sept. 1, but it`s still under construction, and people are starting to get worried.
“If you are living in a camper in someone`s backyard, you need to be making plans to move in the next two weeks, because we are going to be enforcing that ordinance,” said Mayor Ward Koeser.
One of those individuals is Dan Corona, who lives with his wife and their daughter Lexi inside their RV.
“It was some rough living at the beginning, but now in the RV it`s a lot better,” he said. “But now they`ve got the law coming up on and we don`t know where to go.”
They`ve been trying to find a place to live, but every RV park they`ve checked is full.
The new park will have 700 lots, but only 180 of those will be available by early September. That means over 200 people will have no place to live.
“It`s going to be close. If we`re a few days off and the park isn`t quite ready I think the police will be flexible. But we are going to start enforcing it around the first of September,” Koeser said.
The Williston, N.D., city commissioners have delayed a decision on a proposed RV ban after an overflow crowd overwhelmingly opposed it Tuesday (April 24).
The Dickinson Press reported that commissioners decided to give people 30 days to submit comments on a proposal that would make it illegal to live in a camper that is not part of an RV park.
Many opponents, including Shannon Michels, who represented Kum & Go convenience stores, told commissioners the city will lose its work force if the ban moves forward. Seventy-three percent of her employees live in campers because they can’t afford $2,500 rent, she said.
“If they make it so we can’t have campers, we’ll have to shut our doors,” Michels said. “We have no place to put them.”
Maeve MacSteves, owner of R. Rooster BBQ, said her business is thriving because of her employees she has living on her property.
“You’re going to see businesses close,” MacSteves warned.
Commissioners heard public comments for 45 minutes, with two people speaking in favor of the ban.
Williston resident Melissa Meyer said she lives in a single-family home that is surrounded by RVs and junky cars, including a house across the street that has become a man camp. Meyer said she’s afraid to let her children play in the yard. An apartment building manager said she has to call police to chase RVs off the property.
Mayor Ward Koeser asked for a show of hands from the audience to gauge their stance on the ban, and most raised their hands to oppose it.
Koeser, who called the proposed ban the most challenging decision in his 18 years as mayor, said commissioners understand this ordinance is going to cause turmoil.
The police department receives about five complaints per day and commissioners are trying to balance the needs of the long-term residents with the newcomers, Koeser said.
Police Chief James Lokken said police cited an RV resident on Tuesday for dumping sewage on the ground in a residential area. Police also take complaints about noise and people urinating outside, Lokken said.
Officials worry about fire hazards, particularly with several RVs parked close together.
“If one goes up, they’re all going to go up,” Lokken said.
Lokken estimated at a past meeting that 300 to 400 campers are throughout the community in driveways, streets and parking lots. The proposed ordinance would make living in an RV a misdemeanor and subject to a $500 fine.
Commissioner Brent Bogar said leaders recognize that most RV residents don’t cause any problems.
“At the same time, it creates an impact on the city that we cannot ignore,” Bogar said, adding that RV residents don’t pay property taxes that support city services.
Koeser said new RV parks are going in, including one the city improved in an industrial park that will accommodate 600 to 700 units. Williams County also has RV parks in the works, Koeser said.
The commissioners will consider the comments they receive and discuss the ban again May 22. If the ban is approved, commissioners will likely give people some time to comply.
Commissioner Tate Cymbaluk said leaders are trying to figure out when the RV parks will be ready and make adequate time adjustments.
“We’re not going to kick you guys under the bus, not today, not tomorrow, not next month,” Cymbaluk said.