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Williston has an estimated 300 to 400 campers with people living in them due to a severe housing shortage, as seen in this April 11 photo. City officials have passed an ordinance making it illegal to live in an RV outside of an RV park.

Overflowing with RVs, Williston says enough

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WILLISTON -- People living in campers in Williston will have to get rolling, but they have a few months to find a new place to park.

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The Williston City Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance that makes it illegal to live in an RV outside of a designated RV park.

Campers in residential areas will have to relocate by Sept. 1 and RVs in commercial or industrial areas will have until Nov. 1.

The penalty for violating the ordinance is a $500 fine for each day of noncompliance.

Commissioners have said the hundreds of RVs around the city create health and safety hazards. In previous meetings, they have cited cases of people urinating outside their campers, inappropriately dumping waste and illegally hooking up to utilities.

Several RV parks in the Williston area are under construction, but what they will charge for rent is unclear. Mayor Ward Koeser said he's heard rent may be $750 to $800 per month.

Paul Miller, who lives in an RV parked in a church driveway, said the rent is too steep for service workers like him and he expects many will leave town.

"I've come to say goodbye to the city if this law passes," Miller said.

He told commissioners he wishes the city would have charged campers a weekly or monthly fee until the RV park rates came down to a reasonable amount.

Miller, who said his employer didn't want him to say publicly where he works, plans to continue working in Williston this summer and move to Montana before Sept. 1.

He predicts that lines in restaurants and other businesses will only get longer as a result of the ordinance.

"It's going to hurt this city of Williston," Miller said.

Koeser said he's received public comments on both sides of the RV ban, but an increasing number of comments have been concerns and frustrations about the RVs.

"I needed to protect our residents who have lived here, who pay taxes here," said Koeser, adding that approving the ordinance was difficult for commissioners. "I need to protect the quality of life I think they deserve."

Many of the construction workers building Williston's permanent housing live in RVs at work sites.

The ordinance allows building contractors to apply for $200 monthly RV permits to accommodate those workers. That will be reevaluated in a year.

The ordinance does not affect people living in cars or vehicles.

Williston Police Chief James Lokken said the department will determine how to enforce the ordinance. Officers may initially give out warnings.

"It's going to be tough," Lokken said. "We're just hoping people will move on their own."

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Amy Dalrymple

Amy Dalrymple is a Forum News Service reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. She can be reached at adalrymple@forumcomm.com or (701) 580-6890.

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