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Williston wins one crew camp court case, another looms

WILLISTON, N.D. - A district judge ruled Wednesday in favor of the city of Williston's ordinance that forces crew camps to close July 1, but the parties will face off in federal court on Monday in a separate case.

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Halliburton, which owns the Muddy River Lodge, pictured March 8 in Williston, has joined a federal court case against the city challenging the workforce housing ban. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – A district judge ruled Wednesday in favor of the city of Williston’s ordinance that forces crew camps to close July 1, but the parties will face off in federal court on Monday in a separate case.

Northwest Judicial District Judge Paul Jacobson denied a motion from Target Logistics and Lodging Solutions that sought a court injunction against the city of Williston for its workforce housing ban in and around city limits.

Target Logistics and Lodging Solutions, which jointly own and operate 1,035 worker housing beds north of Williston, petitioned the court to order two-year extensions of their temporary housing permits.

Bismarck attorney Scott Porsborg, who is representing the city of Williston, said the judge’s denial of the motion essentially means the case filed in Williams County is dismissed, though he said the plaintiffs can appeal.

“Obviously the city is pleased,” Porsborg said.

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In a statement, Target Logistics said the judge’s ruling “did not reach a final judgment on the merits of our claims in state court, and this case will continue.”

A separate legal challenge in U.S. District Court is still pending, and oilfield services company Halliburton is now joining the legal fight against the city.

Halliburton petitioned to intervene in the case, and will join plaintiffs Target Logistics and Lodging Solutions in making oral arguments against the city of Williston at a hearing scheduled for Monday in Bismarck.

Halliburton, a customer of Target Logistics, owns the Muddy River Lodge in Williston, which is currently closed due to the oil slowdown but the company has said it wants to maintain the facility to have a housing option for workers when activity picks up.

Halliburton said in its court petition that one of the most “drastic” aspects of the city’s ordinance is that it requires companies to remove crew camps and reclaim the land by September, without allowing for the buildings to be repurposed. Halliburton said in the petition demolishing the lodge would cost the company $3 million.

Porsborg said the city doesn’t object to Halliburton joining the case because the company is making the same legal arguments against the ordinance as the workforce housing providers.

In two heated meetings, Williston city commissioners voted 3-2 in November to approve the July 1 sunset date and then voted 3-2 in March against a compromise that would have kept some crew camps open.

The companies challenging the ordinance argue that the city of Williston approved it in an attempt to fill apartment buildings and hotels, which have struggled with high vacancy rates with the oil slowdown.

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City officials say the workforce housing permits were always intended to be temporary.

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