N.D. town OKs building ban to deter enclave
By Blake Nicholson
The updated city laws that city officials hope to have in place by early next month would force Craig Cobb — who has neo-Nazi views and is wanted in Canada for an alleged hate crime — to make major upgrades to his home, and will prevent him from allowing others who come to join him to put up temporary housing on vacant lots he owns.
“He brought in a camper the other day; he’s dropping stuff down wherever he wants to,” Mayor Ryan Schock said Monday. “He’s planning on bringing in 10, 15, 20 people, and we’ve got to figure out where they can go and where they can build. He’s living here thinking that he doesn’t have to follow any rules.”
Cobb has bought a home and 12 other lots in Leith and is encouraging others with white power views to move there and help him take control of the community that had 23 residents before he arrived. He is living with three other male white supremacists and two children in a house with no water or sewer service and only space heaters for heat. He says the city’s plans unfairly target him and his aspirations.
“It speaks to their rampant manipulation under color of law of my civil rights,” he said Monday.
City officials on Sunday night put a building moratorium in place while they work on an ordinance that will require Cobb to install water and sewer service. Another ordinance would prevent tents and campers from being set up on a city lot for more than 10 consecutive days.
Cobb, who has encouraged others to move tents and trailers onto his vacant lots, said the city proposals amount to harassment. He said he will bring his house up to code, but he also plans to take the city to court in the hopes of having town leaders ordered to “cool their heels in a federal prison for a year.”
“Nothing is going to dissuade me from this, or change my attitude,” he said. “This is America.”
Many area residents want Cobb gone. Schock and City Attorney Tom Kelsch said the update to city ordinances that date back a century is aimed more at keeping order in the town than at forcing out Cobb, though they could not immediately name other residents who might be affected by the updates.
“Requiring people to have a good water source and to treat their sewage in an appropriate manner is nothing out of the ordinary,” Kelsch said. “Those are just basic standards.”
Schock said the ordinances could go into effect as early as next week. At that point, property owners not in compliance would be given 30 days to comply or face possible fines or even condemnation.
If Cobb straightens up his property, it will be to the benefit of himself and the town, Kelsch said. “If Mr. Cobb chooses not to go along with it, he’s free to leave,” he said.
Kelsch said he is confident the city is on solid legal ground, but Cobb said he thinks the town’s leaders are illegally conspiring against him.
“I’m not nearly as successful a hater as they are, and they fancy themselves morally superior,” he said.
Schock, a farmer, said he is tiring of the battle and that “there are days I just want to walk away from it and don’t look back.”
“But I think we’re gaining some ground here and getting close to getting something accomplished,” he said.