Zoners reject oil worker facility for tiny Fryburg – Bismarck Tribune

Morgan Chase Development partners Richard Brown, left, and Joe Marques, seen Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, pack up their application for a 318-unit oil worker hotel in Fryburg and say they’ll be back for another try. Lauren Donovan/Bismarck Tribune

Zoners reject oil worker facility for tiny Fryburg

By Lauren Donovan

MEDORA, N.D. — A small group opposed to a supersized oil worker development in the tiny unincorporated village of Fryburg carried the day Thursday, though the developers have one more chance to make their case.

People who live in town, population 20, said a four-story hotel for oil workers with 318 rooms attached to the former Fryburg school is too big and leaves them too vulnerable to noise, crime and traffic without any way to deal with it themselves.

The Billings County Planning and Zoning Commission said those small voices deserve to be heard and unanimously voted against the application.

Chairman John Tczap spoke at length about the town’s concerns, concluding, “The problems that occur are more than what should be there. There would be too many people with no attachment, just make their money and leave, who don’t care about the people living in town.”

Tczap, who’s a deputy sheriff, said even if the facility had a no-alcohol and drug policy, the men could just go to a nearby section line and leave beer cans.

“I don’t know if I could support this size (facility) for this location,” Tczap said.

Partners of the planned Morgan Lodge packed up with their application manuals after the meeting at the Billings County Courthouse in Medora and said they’ll be back Sept. 2 to the county commission, which can override the vote if it wants to.

Richard Brown, partner in Morgan Chase Development, said his company had not yet closed on the school property with the current owner who had planned but never completed a similar project.

When project partner Joe Marques pointed out that the zoning board had OK’d a similar plan for the school, he was cut off at the pass by zoning board member Karen Putnam.

“That’s past and over. There’s a different board here,” Putnam said. She said she’d looked at the project and the town of Fryburg.

“For me, it’s very simple: I’d vote against it,” she said.

Some objections were based on hotel-motel vacancies in nearby Dickinson, with more than 1,600 rooms now built, and Medora with 500. Another concern was that the plan to use the school’s lagoon and build a wastewater plant next to a private residence doesn’t fit either zoning or state health setbacks.

Brown said he and his partner will reassess their options for the planned $18 million project. He said they also have a letter of intent to buy property a half-mile south of Fryburg for the same project.

“We are talking to three oil companies and one engineering firm and they’re saying, ‘Do it.’ It’s (development) coming one way or another. Nothing comes easy; we’ll go forward and see what works,” Brown said.

He said without a worker-style hotel, Fryburg is faced with the possibility that a trucking company will buy the old school for an operations base.

Margie Lindbo of Fryburg said she was relieved and surprised by the zoning board’s support.

“We can find a use for it (the school). Maybe we can buy it back and make a school out of it again,” she said. Billings County School District closed it in 2000 for lack of students, but enrollment is growing again.

Reach reporter Lauren Donovan at 701-220-5511 or

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