On this date in 2013, the city of Williston, North Dakota adopted an ordinance, proposing to annex 217 acres of land north of Highway 1804 and south of the BNSF railroad tracks. The annexation became effective on October 1, 2015. It was one of a dozen annexations that became effective on that date.
At the heart of North Dakota’s Bakken region, Williston has grown in size and population since the state’s oil boom began in 2006. Over 12,000 people lived in the city in 2000. By 2014, the number had almost tripled to over 33,000 people.
The city has changed its borders many times over those years. An annexation of 4,800 acres in 2013 drew protests from some of 520 rural residents who didn’t want the city’s borders to include them by extending to Williams County Road 6. Despite heated questions and many concerns such as emergency services, fireworks and hunting, city commissioners unanimously approved the “Northern Annexation.”
From 2010 to 2013, Williston’s city limits tripled in size. Apartment buildings, hotels and man camps sprang up around the city. But Williston’s growing pains did level off. Over 2,000 people left Williston between 2014 and 2015 due to the slump in oil prices and dropping rig numbers. Meanwhile, city commissioners voted to shut down man camps by Sept. 1, 2016, eliminating 3,600 beds within city limits.
Other changes included a new high school, breaking ground in spring 2015; and a 13-mile truck reliever route around Williston’s western edge. And when it comes to the airport, it’s still uncertain whether to relocate or remodel.
The challenges of growth certainly didn’t dampen former Williston Mayor Ward Koeser’s optimism. His dream was for the city to become one of the best places to live.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura