The state Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in the latest legal tussle over the Buffalo Chip Campground’s incorporation as a municipality.
Arguments in the case, one of two heard at the University of South Dakota School of Law in Vermillion, concerned the campground’s appeal of a Feb. 22 written ruling by then-4th Circuit Judge Gordon Swanson, ordering that the town of Buffalo Chip be dissolved because it did not have at least 100 residents as required by state law at the time of its incorporation in 2015.
Attorney Jack Heib of Aberdeen, representing the campground, told justices the campground followed state law in place at the time requiring a legal municipality to have either at least 100 residents or 30 registered voters.
The campground, which hosts thousands of guests during the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally, has few if any permanent year-round residents, but had more than 50 registered voters listing the campground as their place of residence in 2015.
In 2016, the Legislature changed the law to require 100 residents and 45 voters.
The city of Sturgis, the state Municipal League, campground neighbors and others have long opposed the incorporation.
“What we have here is the direct attack on the incorporation of a town,” Heib said.
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Sioux Falls attorney James Moore, representing the state on behalf of the attorney general's office, said grammatical wording of the state law required the campground to have at least 100 legal residents and 30 registered voters.
Moore compared the law to a hypothetical sign saying “No food or drink allowed in the courtroom.”
Clearly the rule applies to both food and drink, not one or the other, he said.
“It's a clear grammatical principle,” Moore said.
But Heib countered that the word “or” means “and” when followed by the negative word “No.”
“If I say no food or drink in the courtroom unless you have a coaster or napkin, no one would read that and say I need both (coaster and napkin),” he said.
There is no timetable for the Supreme Court to rule in the case.