When the Rapid City Council rejected an appeal by an area developer for a proposed subdivision just southeast of Rapid City limits on Monday night, the project was declared dead by the realtor behind the project.
And to some council members, it’s just another example of the city’s failure to support affordable housing projects the area so desperately needs.
During Monday night’s council meeting, Prairie Valley Development Company LLC, represented at the meeting by local realtor Stuart Martin of Re/Max Results, argued that the city should allow their proposed development to sidestep city requirements to install curbs, gutters and sidewalks along Reseda and Abelia streets about 2.5 miles southeast of city limits.
Though the lots are in a markedly rural area, they fall within the city’s three-mile platting jurisdiction, requiring the development to meet the city’s development and building criteria.
But in a 5-4 decision that required Mayor Steve Allender to cast the deciding vote — Alderwoman Darla Drew was absent and Alderwoman Laura Armstrong abstained due to a conflict of interest — the council rejected the developer’s appeal. Aldermen Ritchie Nordstrom and Steve Laurenti and Alderwomen Becky Drury and Amanda Scott voted against the appeal while Aldermen Chad Lewis, Jason Salamun and John Roberts and Alderwoman Lisa Modrick voted to grant it.
Nordstrom expressed hesitation about the subdivision’s current drainage system, and both Nordstrom and Laurenti said they were concerned that when the area was eventually annexed into city limits, the cost of the improvements would fall on the city.
When asked by Modrick to estimate when the city would possibly annex the area, Public Works Director Dale Tech was noncommittal.
“I have no idea,” he said.
Modrick said she would vote for the developer’s appeal as a result.
Another decision on whether the developers would need to install a 12-inch water main was continued to the council’s next meeting on Oct. 16, but outside the council chambers after the decision on curb, gutters and sidewalks, Martin said he believed the project was already unfeasible.
According to Martin’s estimates, the now-required improvements would cost around $300,000, with the to-be-determined water main issue costing $130,000. Martin said he was trying to keep the lot costs to between $30,000 and $35,000 but now, that was impossible.
“Is there enough profit to be made in this to actually do it?” Roberts asked Martin after the council’s decision to require the installation of curbs, gutters and sidewalks.
“No,” Martin replied.
“And that’s exactly what I thought,” Roberts said. “We’re always talking about affordable housing on this board, but we don’t do anything for affordable housing. In my opinion, this one is so isolated that we would have had an opportunity to do something with affordable housing, and it really wouldn’t have affected the city that much.”
Allender, addressing the sparse crowd after another decision on the development granted them an exception to the required 52 feet of right-of-way, countered Robert’s claim.
“It’s a false narrative to claim that the reason that lot costs are too high is because there are development rules,” he said. “There is a landowner who sells land and there are construction costs that go into that land, and to think that none of that has to do anything with the cost is naive.”
Lewis was visibly frustrated with Allender’s remarks, asking if there would be an opportunity to respond to the mayor’s statement, to which Allender simply replied, “No.”
Immediately afterward, Roberts laughed aloud.
Outside city hall following the meeting, Lewis and Roberts discussed the matter and two other recent council decisions that killed affordable housing developments in the area before they ever broke ground.
Lewis, still angered, walked to his car in the rain-soaked parking lot but not before giving his final, candid and unimpeded take on the matter.
“Rapid City grows in spite of itself,” he said. “And you can put that in the paper.”
In other action, the council:
• Acknowledged the city’s sales tax collections for the month of July, which came in at $2,285,169, essentially even with July 2016 collections, at $2,288,753. For the first seven months of 2017, collections are up 1.6 percent compared with 2016, at $14,366,688.
• Confirmed the appointment of Ken Young as director of the city’s Community Planning & Development Services Department. Young, who worked as the Community Development Director in Pleasant Grove, Utah, for the last 11 years, began his career in municipal government in the 1990s when he served as assistant city manager for Mesquite, Nev.
The director position has been vacant since March 2016 and has been filled on an interim basis by Public Works Department Director Dale Tech since that time. In May 2016, the city council approved a request from Allender to hire and pay recruiting firm Waters & Company up to $44,000 to fill both the Public Works and Community Planning and Development Services director positions. This February, the council approved increasing the director position’s advertised salary range from $96,000 to $115,000, to $105,628 to $125,260, depending on experience. At the time of departure, former director Brett Limbaugh was paid $110,628, according to city communications coordinator Darrell Shoemaker.
• Approved a resolution that will transfer the remaining monies in the city’s Utility Support Fund to the Capital Improvement Plan fund and Vision Fund after the reallocation was approved during the city’s budget hearings in September. Of the 2 percent sales tax that Rapid City collects, 50 percent of collections will now go to the general fund, 29 percent to the capital improvement plan and 21 percent to the Vision Fund. Previously, 8 percent was disbursed to the Utility Support Fund, which will be eliminated once ongoing projects paid for by the fund are completed.