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Controversial zoning ordinance will be on ballot


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO AM) – A Sioux Falls citizens group has gathered more than enough signatures to put a new city ordinance to a public vote.  This means that Walmart’s application to rezone land for its proposed supercenter and start the application process over under the old zoning laws from 1983.

What does this mean for the average citizen of Sioux Falls?  Jeff Schmitt, Chief Planning and Zoning Officer for Sioux Falls, says Shape Places has been in the works for years.

“A zoning ordinance is what people can do with their land,” said Schmitt. “For the last 50 to 75 years in Sioux Falls, people know what to do with their land.  A house can go where houses go, a business can go where businesses go, and then you get down into the minutia of what are the lighting standards, how much parking you need and what landscaping is required and that is zoning, what are the standards for your property.”

Schmitt said, For the last four years, we have been working with the citizens of Sioux Falls to update the code from 1983 and get it lined up wit what is going on in 2013.  The citizens have said this is complicated and can we make the process easier. They wanted to understand why they had to go to so many meetings to make a decision.  They asked that if we don’t like something we can say no and be done or if we like something we can say yes and be done? 

“The citizens want something consistent and reliable, don’t change the rules as we go” said Schmitt. “The citizens also wanted to keep residential areas residential, and under the old codes, a lot of things could go into a residential district so we made residential just residential.”

“For the people concerned about the Walmart proposal, we are talking 85th and Minnesota which are two large streets and it isn’t where residential single families live,” said Schmitt.  “Walmart is proposed to go on the South side and family residents are on the North side.  Citizens are also concerned about the conditional use issues, if they are against zoning, they don’t want it pushed off to a conditional use issue.” 

Schmitt said it isn’t too late for people to get their input in for the Walmart proposal and the city can’t go forward with Shape Places.  Now the proposal will come forward to change the property at 85th and Minnesota from agricultural to commercial.  There will still be a public hearing process and neighbors should be involved. 

“Citizens need to depend more on public officials to make decisions on these issues,” said Schmitt.  An average citizen doesn’t have the time to read through all of the code and attend all of the meetings.  We love to talk to people in context that you can’t make changes that apply to everyone in the city.

Jeff Schmitt was interviewed on the Greg Belfrage Show, Tuesday, May 7, 2013.