Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published September 09 2013
Williston may put brakes on mobile businesses
Williston Planning and Zoning Director Kent Jarcik said the city has received numerous requests for new mobile businesses, which the city’s ordinance does not permit.
Technology advancements allow businesses to be more mobile, but planning and zoning codes have not kept up, Jarcik said.
“There are things to deal with from a zoning and land use perspective you never had to consider before,” he said.
Nick Vasuthasawat, the city’s code compliance officer, has drafted a proposed moratorium for the Williston City Commission to consider tonight.
Initially, Williston’s planning department told MaxHealth Mobile, a mobile chiropractor, to cease operating immediately.
But after further discussion, city planning officials say they will exempt two existing businesses, MaxHealth Mobile and a mobile veterinary service, from the proposed moratorium while a consensus on mobile businesses is reached, Vasuthasawat said.
Williston’s ordinances allow transient merchants who operate on a temporary basis.
But mobile businesses that operate on a long-term basis out of a bus or trailer have not been permitted, Jarcik said.
Mobile business owners aren’t purchasing property or paying property taxes to support the services they use, Jarcik said.
“It doesn’t build equity in the community,” he said.
Stephen Alexander, a Las Vegas chiropractor who moved to North Dakota to serve oilfield workers, said he could open a permanent location in Williston, but that wouldn’t help him fill the need.
Oil companies in Williston and surrounding communities contract with Alexander to set up his mobile chiropractic rehab clinic – an RV equipped with digital X-ray machine, examination room and other technology.
Alexander performs chiropractic evaluation and treatment, drug testing, massage rehab, and provides health exams for truck drivers who need to renew their commercial driver’s licenses.
Many oilfield workers can’t make it to a chiropractor during regular business hours or they don’t have vehicles, Alexander said. He recently saw six mechanics between the hours of 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. from the parking lot of a Williston business.
“When are they supposed to go to a chiropractor?” said Alexander, who estimates he sees more than 150 patients a week in Williston.
Alexander said he spends at least $6,000 a month to stay in Williston hotels. He could open an office location, but he’d still need to travel to care for his patients.
“I have equity that solves the problem,” Alexander said. “Having a brick-and-mortar (business) doesn’t solve the problem.”
Vince Stenson, who said he has operated Bakken Mobile Veterinary Service since May 2012, said Monday he had not been informed of the city’s discussions and had no comment.
Last fall, Williston leaders adopted an ordinance banning food trucks and other mobile food vendors, citing health and safety concerns.