By Jenna Ebersole

Williston Herald

A moratorium on new man camps in town could be approved in the next City Commission meeting after commissioners discussed Tuesday how permanent housing has begun to catch up.

Two applicants for temporary housing in town received a denial and an approval at the meeting as commissioners considered the benefits in continuing to allow individuals to apply for the housing through the Special Permitted Use system.

The first, for a property at 224 1st Avenue East, did not meet requirements that residents must work on the site, commissioners agreed in voting to deny the request. But a request from Blackhawk Energy to add to an existing site met with approval after some challenge about increasingly available permanent housing.

The request passed 3-2 with commissioners Howard Klug and Tate Cymbaluk voting to deny. But Mayor Ward Koeser said after the meeting that the request met the requirements in place, and a final decision needs to be made.

“I really think the city will in the very near future put a moratorium on man camps in town,” Koeser said. “I think everybody’s anxious to say enough is enough of this.”

He said the other issue is the city is searching for an “exit strategy” to look at down the road on SPUs already granted, which a committee is now considering.

Two ordinances also considered at the meeting could permanently ban mobile food vendors and set detailed requirements for landscaping on new construction.

Both ordinances received a first reading Tuesday, with possible final approval after a second reading at the next commission meeting. Koeser said he anticipates both getting approved. The food vendor ordinance would make a moratorium against them already in place permanent, with the exception of the coffee kiosks in town at several parking lots.

Koeser said the issues began about a year ago when vendors were creating congestion and traffic problems and the city voted to set down a moratorium. The new ordinance would allow for longer term regulation of vendors, he said.

“It basically prohibits them in town,” he said.

Commissioners debated wording to ensure that coffee posts could continue serving beverages besides coffee and prepared foods like muffins or biscotti. Ordinance 958 would also allow an exception for vendors to operate in cases of special events in town.

The commission also considered a landscaping ordinance that would create a variety of new requirements on residential, commercial and institutional construction for landscaping, including yards and buffers between different types of properties.

“We really don’t have much for landscaping ordinances,” Koeser said. “Since we have so much new construction, we want to make sure people don’t just build their house and don’t do anything to their yard.”

“To have an appealing facility, you need the yard landscape,” he added.

The date of required compliance has not yet been set but could be in the range of Jan. 1, Koeser said, depending on the language of a final approval that could come at the next commission meeting.

The commission also formed a committee to explore the facts in the J-1 Visa Program termination, discussed and approved several needs at the airport and approved an additional vehicle for Basin Cab.