Council to consider 6-month moratorium on building multi-unit housing

Some business owners say fear of ‘man camps’ is driving force behind moratorium

By Kay Braddock

  A public hearing will be held Thursday, 7 p.m. at Terry Town Hall to address an emergency ordinance that would prohibit the construction of any multi-unit housing within a one-mile radius of Terry’s town limits for the next 6 months. The Terry Town Council is considering the moratorium in light of recent increased oil-field development that is causing a housing crunch in much of eastern Montana and western North Dakota. 

The 6-month moratorium would prohibit the construction of any new trailer courts, campgrounds, work camps, hotels, motels and any other multi-unit complexes.
The oil boom is going to keep growing and will likely spread to Terry, said councilman Clinton Rakes. He believes the 6-month moratorium will give the town time to put controls in place in order to protect the community.
Councilwoman Rolane Christofferson agrees.
“This is just a way to get our ducks in a row and to make sure our infrastructure could handle it,” said Christofferson. “We’re not trying to stop businesses from coming in; we’re just trying to make sure everything is done right.”
Pointing to sewage and water concerns, Christofferson said, regulations need to be in place in order to prevent a “potential mess” that would likely occur from a large influx of people moving in.  Ensuring zoning districts are in place to prevent work-related businesses from neighboring homes, is also a reason for the moratorium. 
Both agree the emergency 6-month moratorium will give the town time to complete the task of creating a growth policy for the town of Terry and to zone the town. Currently two committees, appointed by the Terry Town Council, are working to do just that. 
We want to manage growth, not be overwhelmed by it, Christofferson said, adding sewage, water and zoning regulations need to be in place before a great influx of people come in. 
But some local business owners are concerned about the potential message the town’s 6-month moratorium may be sending to big businesses interested in building in Terry — in particular drilling businesses interested in building ‘man-camps’.
“We’ve got a dying town,” said meat locker owner Fred Forcella. “You can’t put a gate out on the freeway and say ‘Hey, we don’t want you.’”  
He and his wife Deloris have owned Forcella Custom Meats in Terry for the past 15 years. In that time span Forcella says he has seen a steady decline in population and business.
“If you don’t have people coming in here, we’re going to blow away like a dust storm,” Forcella said.
Fears attached to the idea of a rash of criminal activity increasing due to an influx of people, whether through the building of ‘man-camps’ or other means, shouldn’t prevent Terry from welcoming new businesses, Forcella said. “Regardless of the size, there is going to be crime.”
Dan Kirkpatrick, owner of Get R Done Auto Repair Shop, expressed similar sentiments.
“It would do Terry more good than harm,” Kirkpatrick said, referring to ‘man-camps’ being built in or near Terry.
“I’m not worried about the crime,” he added, noting drilling companies have controls in place to keep their employees in line. 
Kirkpatrick pointed to the additional families that could move here as a result of the construction of ‘man-camps’. 
“If we welcomed them, maybe they’d build here and stay here,” he said.
Don Self, who owns and manages Terry’s only grocery store with his wife Sharon, said “fear mongering” shouldn’t prevent the town from moving forward.
“There is absolutely no reason that the Town of Terry could not become a bustling, vibrant, thriving community,” Self said in a written letter to the Tribune. “But, to do any of this takes funding, and such funding requires people.”

Published Oct. 26, 2011

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