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Crew camp controversy comes to Jamestown

JAMESTOWN -- While there are specific projects to build crews camps or temporary housing, Stutsman County and Jamestown officials are trying to get ready.

We're not going to let these (crew camps) flop anywhere," said Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen.

Interest in building crew camps and other forms of temporary housing in Stutsman County has arisen due to multiple projects at the Spiritwood Energy Park that may require hundreds of construction workers -- and a lack of existing local housing for workers.

Andersen said that as far as she knows, no one has expressed any serious interest in building a crew camp in Jamestown either, though she did warn that she wouldn't necessarily be told what a property owner planned to do with his or her own land.

According to Dustin Bakken, zoning administrator for Stutsman County, there have been somewhere between six and 10 requests for general information about what the county would require of a crew camp -- but no one has attempted to get a permit or pursued the matter further.

"There's nothing set in stone right now -- not any projects whatsoever," Bakken said.

Last week, uncertainty over crew camps and confusion over what the law permits dominated the annual meeting of Homer Township in Stutsman County.

Township Supervisor Diane Carlson said the township took no direct action regarding crew camps, but discussed the three possibilities given to them by county zoning officials.

According to Carlson, a person named Rex Tottingham had asked for information about building temporary housing in Homer Township -- in the form of a 30-foot-by-80-foot structure with eight bedrooms and a kitchen.

According to Carlson, Tottingham said he could build two such boarding houses for workers at the Spiritwood Energy Park -- and when the need for temporary housing was finished, one structure would be destroyed and the other would be converted into a single-family dwelling.

The city of Jamestown and Stutsman County are each attempting to make ordinances and set requirements for crew camps in advance to prevent some of the problems suffered by communities in the Oil Patch -- soaring rents, trailers everywhere and difficulty enforcing laws when people have no fixed addresses.

Andersen said the city is being proactive in planning for a possible crew camp in Jamestown.

"The city understands one of easiest places to meet short-term housing needs is where you have water, sewer, garbage and law enforcement all in place," she said.

The draft future land use plan, prepared by SRF Consulting Group, includes an area of eastern Jamestown set aside for temporary housing. The land is currently used for agriculture with industrial businesses nearby.

"The reason we identified that site is it had access to city utilities," said Cindy Gray, planner for SRF Consulting Group. "From a planning standpoint, these things should be within city limits with city services. The benefit of having it in the city limits is workers can take advantage of city businesses."