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Stutsman County finalizes zoning ordinance against crew camps

JAMESTOWN -- After eight months of research, public meetings and footwork, Stutsman County has an ordinance regulating crew camps.

"There was a lot of work put into it, and a lot of public input, and I feel good about it," said Commissioner Dale Marks during Tuesday's meeting of the Stutsman County Commission. "... I think we have a guideline that will suffice us for many years, so I'll make a motion that we'll approve that."

Commissioners voted 4-0 to adopt the ordinance. Commissioner Denny Ova was absent.

"It's going to be an amendment or an addition to the current zoning ordinance," said Dustin Bakken, zoning administrator for Stutsman County.

Townships will be able to adopt the county's crew camp ordinance or, if they wish, will still be able to write their own crew camp ordinances.

Townships that have their own zoning will also be able to select which zoning districts crew camps will be allowed in, Bakken added. Some may need to update their zoning rules to make them compatible with the county's ordinance.

The county's ordinance restricts crew camps to agricultural, commercial and industrial zones only, and does not permit them in any residential areas.

The new ordinance also requires any crew camp to have a 6-foot fence surrounding its perimeter, be 1,320 feet from any residence or occupied structure, have a $1 million surety bond for cleanup, have legible unit numbers and have all required health and safety permits, Bakken said.

Crew camps will also be charged a $300 administrative fee per bed at the facility annually in lieu of property taxes for the structure, Bakken said, though landowners will still pay property taxes on the land.

Three definitions -- for campgrounds, trailers and travel trailers -- will be added to the regular zoning ordinances, to help distinguish them from crew camps, Bakken said.

"... it was a long process, but I think we've got a very good document here that will cover us, should a project want to locate in Stutsman County," Bakken said.

In other news Tuesday, the commission:

* is investigating building a new storage structure for the Stutsman County Highway Department. The existing building's roof is sagging, and repairs would cost approximately $20 per square foot, with the building remaining structurally unsound afterward.

* plans to advertise the county's road grinder for sale.

* will be checking to ensure farmers are not farming in road right of way. Letters were sent to those who were encroaching on the roads, and for the most part, said Commissioner Dave Schwartz, people have been complying with right-of-way requirements.