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Commissioners confront controversial rezoning proposal amidst public opposition

The Lincoln County Commissioners met Tuesday, Nov. 28 in the Lincoln County Boardroom. With all members present, Commissioners heard agenda items including a Lake Alvin Ordinance, bridge reports, and new prison housing rates.

In the first order of business, Commissioner Tiffani Landeen read the second reading for an Ordinance of Lincoln County, SD, rezoning Lots 1 and 2, Lake Alvin Subdivision, SE1/4 SE1/4, Section 33-T100N-R49W from the RC Recreation/Conservation District and the RR Rural Residential District to the PD Planned Development District, and amending the Official Zoning Map of Lincoln County. The Planning Commission recommendation for approval failed 0-6

Planning Director, Toby Brown joined the meeting to discuss the ordinance. 

“This is an application to rezone two parcels of approximately 6.2 acres from the RC recreation district and RR residential district to the PD planned development district. Subject properties are approximately 2.85 miles east of the city of Harrisburg. They are within the city of Harrisburg growth area and within the city of Harrisburg subdivision planning authority. The Lincoln County comprehensive plan identifies these properties as future agricultural area. The city of Harrisburg principal plan currently identifies these properties as future low density single family residential. The subject parcels, as I mentioned, there are two of them: the 1.2 acre parcel which would be to the southwest that is zoned RC recreation conservation district and the larger five acre piece of zoned RR residential subject properties. The smaller piece is undeveloped, it does not have any structures on it. The larger five acre piece does have an agricultural structure buildings on it. Currently, the applicant did submit accounts plan with the application identifying their want to construct an events facility or venue to the north on the property and then as well as on the smaller piece would be a shop slash office type building as part of this there is a pending plat with the city of Harrisburg to combine both of these parcels into one parcel,” Brown said. 

Joel McDowell of Core Companies, applicant for the ordinance joined the meeting to answer any questions Commissioners had. Commissioner Michael Poppens asked if there had been any traffic analysis on how much traffic flow will be in and out of the property. McDowell said he has not done that yet. 

Commissioner Jim Schmidt asked what McDowell’s ultimate plan would be and when it would begin. 

“The work is already started, I worked with JSA as far as the grading plan, filtration, and the next point, if approved, in the spring the site work and construction of the venue would begin,” he said. 

Commissioner Landeen opened the floor up to proponents of the project. With none in the building, she opened it up to opponents. Rebecca Johnson was the first to voice her opinion. 

“I will read some letters. The first one is from Lou, Gina and Joyce George. Dearest deemed members of the Planning Commission, we are writing to express our strong opposition and we, as well as other various residents in our neighborhood, are completely and vehemently opposed to the addition of some sort of Event Center complete with liquor license and parking lots. This rezoning would absolutely cause incessant traffic build up, notable safety problems, unwanted noise concerns, disruption of the local wildlife habitat and would lower the property values of the existing community. We feel very confident in stating that the vast majority of our hard working residents of this area live on or bought acreage that was away from town for a specific and definite common reason,” Johnson said. 

“We all very much appreciate our privacy, security and serenity which again is a major factor of why we purchased built homes outside of a busy town. Commercial property particularly of this nature with its unbridled noise traffic at all hours, alcohol distribution, and very real safety concerns simply does not belong in a residential neighborhood. Furthermore, it was unmistakably not lost on any of us that the proposed rezoning sign was posted on a closed road where essentially no one could easily view it. This itself points to the dubious nature of trying to insert an unwanted business into our literal backyards we are certainly available to clarify or answer any questions you may have of us regarding this topic but we strongly request that you deny this rezoning attempt. Thank you all very much for your time and attention in this matter,” Johnson continued. 

Johnson then read another letter from Jonathan and Jess Cooke.  

“To whom it may concern, I write this letter with the strongest possible objection to the establishment of an Event Center and RV park in the Lake Alvin area. This type of business is destructive and consumptive in the value in the nature and will bring no benefit to our community. It will destroy our environment and negatively our way of life bringing pollution, noise, traffic, crime, congestion and danger change in our community. We should seek to affect those changes that make us better and Event Center and RV park does not contribute to our community. It will not better us, it will take from us. It’s establishment will take the serenity and safety of our community and replace it with noise, it will replace it with trash, it will replace it with diesel fumes, torn up ground, and human waste from RV’s, it will replace it with traffic that people come out to events that are specifically come to act in excess. They will act in excess without thought feeling or what is best for our community and when we are done they will leave behind the effects of their excess without a thought about our community. There is no rideshare nor public transportation in our area but people will invite alcohol and be intoxicated on our roads where our children play. They will deposit their food wrappers, bottles and cans along our roadways, their noise will disturb our neighbors and what do we do when the inevitable emergency occurs we lack the resources for increased police presence as well as emergency fire and medical to appropriately respond making this an outright danger to our area and for what? This business will not bring good jobs to our community, it does not bring a needed service, it will not better us or our land or contribute to our futures. Are we really being asked to stomach this disfigurement for a few shift jobs that’s it is it really our trade-offs the people who live in our community do so specifically to be away from the congested noisy dirty city life this Event Center will bring it right to their doorstep, and to some of our neighbors, actually to their doorstep. The owner does not wish to make Lincoln County better the owner wants to profit off us. in the Gordon gecko ask greed is good fashion the owner who by the way is not a member of our community the owner who will not have to deal with the disruption of our way of life and endangerment to our families his center and RV park will cause the owner who brought the land the land meant for houses and meant and means to not build houses I bet this gentleman did not purchase his house next to an Event Center and RV park but wants to build a new one next to ours I say to this gentleman if you would like to build this build it next to your house I don’t want it near mine we do not want it here,” she read.

Stephen Duran was next to speak at the podium. 

“All the neighbors seem to have said we don’t want this and really like Ms. Johnson just said, there’s really no there’s no commerce as a business person we all are here, with our time too up here and it just doesn’t make sense for the land. I was at the last meeting with my wife and it was packed and nobody wanted it, so I don’t do much public speaking so I apologize but my question as to why we would keep going with the plan when it was already shut down last time,” he said. 

Others joined in the opposition portion of the meeting, having the same fears as the rest. Commissioner Schmidt stated he drove past the location of the proposed site and stated the hill where the property connects to the road could be a potential traffic hazard for drivers on the road. 

“This is predominantly a definition of rural residential, I see a lot of beautiful, well kept homes, and while I’m certainly not opposed to free enterprise, or this concept, and it may have merit at some place, but I’m going to support the findings of our Zoning and Planning Board, and vote to deny the appeal,” Schmidt said. 

The petition for approval failed 4-0 with Commission Jim Jibben abstaining.

A representative stood in for Highway Superintendent, Terry Fluit, to give a review of the 2023 bridge inspections. 

“I’m here with Josh Prather,  and we have the year end review for bridges and things that we’ve done including bridge replacements. I think you guys all had it in your packet for the league of the bridge limits things that we got the ones that are highlighted in green red are the ones that have changed this year. We’ve added an additional two structures to our system one was West of Quaker on County Road 103 used to be a double set of pipe now turned into a box which 20 foot rule made it a structure also down on County Road 152 we had the same thing there we had a box culvert ended up putting pipe in and create an additional structure. We only had one structure this year that ended up getting a weight rating on it, and that’s the Orange Bridge,” he said. 

The Highway Superintendent’s office is working on getting a preservation grant for the needed repairs. In 2023, the Highway Department only reviewed the on-highway system roads and township roads will begin the process in 2024.

Commissioners made a change to the consent agenda and wanted more information on the request to approve and authorize the chair to execute an amendment to housing prisoners in Minnehaha County. Sheriff Steve Swenson was available to answer questions the board and public had. 

“Minnehaha county has requested their daily prisoner charge per day be changed from $106 to $112 per inmate per day for fiscal year 2024. During the budget hearing, I got an email and did inform the Commission, which did increase the budget, but we are budgeted for it,” he said. 

Currently, Lincoln County is guaranteed 45 beds per day, and Sheriff Swenson budgets for around 55. Motion approved.


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