Rockwool will build employee housing next to its plant in Grand Forks.
City council approved a three year temporary use permit to allow apartments in an existing building next to its operations on Industrial Park Way.
CAO Duncan Redfearn met with Rockwool officials recently.
“They reiterated the challenge they’re having in attracting employees to Rockwool, primarily because of housing and not being able to find housing,” Redfearn told council.
Coun. David Mark was the only councillor to oppose the plan.
He suggested apartments shouldn’t be built in an industrial area and the company should be hiring locals instead of bringing in people from outside the area.
“I know that there’s housing for sale around town. Maybe people aren’t making enough money if they can’t afford to buy housing. I do understand the challenge of finding rental housing,” Mark said.
Rockwool workers recently went on strike where wages were the main sticking point.
“There’s lots of people in this community that they could try and attract to work at their business instead of bringing in from elsewhere,” Mark said.
The councillor suggested he “certainly (didn’t) want to see something like we have” at another Grand Forks company where they are “pulling from other countries, even, because they don’t want to pay as much.”
Asked by Coun. Zak Eburne-Stoodley about whether longer term spot zoning was an option, CAO Redfearn said there’s a lack of industrial land while a lot of housing development is in the works around city.
“It’s temporary until we can see what flushes out in the community,” Redfearn said.
The four apartments on Industrial Park Drive should be built by summer.
Contacted by Vista Radio, an official with Rockwool declined comment. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a worker housing project/program to speak to,” Sarah Sinovic said.