Motorcycle club opposes annexation by city of Sturgis

Motorcycle club opposes annexation by city of Sturgis

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Jackpine Gypsies

The Jackpine Gypsies Club Grounds include a motorcycle short track (foreground) motocross course, hillclimb (not pictured), a clubhouse and other outbuildings. 

An opponent said the city of Sturgis’ attempt to annex property owned by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club will mean the demise of the longtime organization closely tied to the start of the Sturgis motorcycle rally 82 years ago.

“This will basically kill the Gypsies,” club representative Brett Winsell told the Sturgis City Council at its meeting Monday night. “The tax burden is something that we can’t bear.”

That burden would reportedly increase by slightly more than $2,500 annually, from about $4,800 in county and school taxes already paid yearly by the club.

Yet the Sturgis City Council voted 6-1, with one abstention, to approve a resolution of intent to annex property owned by the Gypsies, and also unanimously approved a second resolution of intent to annex a nearby parcel of property in the Murray Addition, which is home to the Big Rig Campground.

The Gypsies’ property includes motorcycle racing facilities, the J.C. "Pappy" Hoel Short Track, a motocross course immediately to the west and a hillclimb track to the south, along with parking areas, a clubhouse, announcer and scoring towers, grandstands and other structures.

The Big Rig Campground, which operates only during the August motorcycle rally, sits atop a hill to the west of the Gypsies' property and includes north and south campgrounds with pull-through parking for large self-contained or trailered recreational vehicles.

Both properties are adjacent or close to the city’s current western boundary. The attempted annexations are a continuation of other annexations of contiguous parcels that were recently completed around the city.

City manager Daniel Ainslie listed five state statutes a municipality may use to authorize annexation:

-- When a tax inequity exists because of the provision of urban services to a developing area.

-- When it is necessary that the city be allowed to exercise proper municipal powers to ensure orderly growth and development.

-- When the city is willing and able to provide urban services from which an adjacent area would benefit.

-- When the development of an area may adversely affect the health and safety of the residents of the city.

-- When there exists a mutual interest between the city and a developing area.

Ainslie said both properties met most, if not all, the factors for annexation.

“The city’s potential annexation of the property owned by the Jackpine Gypsies is in the best interests of the city,” Ainslie said.

Winsell, however, said the Gypsies provided a portion of their land to the city several years ago to allow the extension of Short Track Road as an access for the Murray addition, construction that required the rebuilding of the short track further west.

He said the club had provided fill dirt for other city construction projects and also annually stages motorcycle racing events during the rally and through the summer that bring visitors to town and benefit the city.

“I had one member say it sounds like a stab in the back for all the years of cooperation we’ve had with the city. Another said it looks like a transfer of wealth,” he said.

He also said previous mayors had promised not to annex the Gypsies’ club grounds.

“We’ve always had a good, symbiotic relationship with the city,” Winsell said.

Ainslie said the club is already paying for city water at a 50% higher rate than it would pay if annexed.

He also said the club also benefits from city police, fire and ambulance services and use of city-maintained streets to access its property.

“It’s important that everyone pays for the actual maintenance of those roads,” Ainslie said.

Approval of the resolutions of intent also included setting a public hearing on the annexation proposal for the March 2 council meeting.

Mayor Mark Carstensen said if the proposed annexations pass on March 2, opponents have 20 days from the date of publication to gather petition signatures to put the issue to a public vote.

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