SPEARFISH | Nearly 2,000 voters braved snowy streets Tuesday to reject annexation of more than one square mile of the Upper and Lower valleys.
Late Tuesday, Spearfish election officials said annexation failed by a vote of 1,225 (54.5 percent) to 1,020 (45.4 percent). Tuesday afternoon, Spearfish City Administrator Joe Neeb reported the city had received 584 absentee ballots, more than were cast in last April’s mayoral election.
The special election pitted pro-growth advocates against anti-annexation landowners, predominantly valley residents opposed to the city’s plans to annex 658 acres, increase the town’s size by 6 percent and add 1,653 new residents.
About 7,100 residents of the city’s three wards and some 1,100 registered voters in the area proposed for annexation were eligible to cast ballots, according to Jamie Hafner, city election coordinator. Late Tuesday, Hafner said nearly 24 percent of eligible city voters and more than 56 percent of eligible valley voters voted.
In town, election results showed more than 41 percent of voters rejected annexation, while more than 95 percent of Valley voters cast ballots against expanding the city. Only 27 valley residents voted in favor of the measure, compared with 522 against.
Jim Lee, who chaired the anti-annexation group Concerned Citizens of Spearfish, rejoiced Tuesday night when informed of the election tallies.
“I think it sends a clear message to the city that the people have voted,” Lee said. “It’s time they start paying attention to the needs of city residents before they start expanding out here.”
Lee praised the work of his grassroots organization and said they were able to counter misinformation issued by the city regarding the benefits of annexation.
“We are so lucky to have a large group of dedicated and talented people involved in the Concerned Citizens group,” he said. “You just can’t imagine how people out here feel about annexation. All of them were willing to give up their time to save our agriculture and to save their lifestyle.”
Mayor Dana Boke said Tuesday night that she accepted the decision of voters to overturn the Spearfish City Council’s decision to annex the Upper and Lower valleys.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” Boke said. “There were many misconceptions pulled from the annexation study that were taken out of context and some of the arguments were not accurate, but I believe in our democratic process and I accept the decision of our voters.”
The mayor called on civic groups to work together for a better Spearfish, despite the setback.
“As we move into the future still a divided city, it becomes more and more imperative that leadership groups focus on communication, collaboration and ensuring that the decisions made are focused primarily on the benefits to the people we serve,” she said. “While the division continues we must find a way to work together — the people of the city and the people of the valley — the future of Spearfish depends on it.”