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Walmart opponents file lawsuit in Sioux Falls

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- A group opposed to a new Walmart Supercenter in Sioux Falls is suing the city and its leaders, saying land for the proposed store was illegally annexed into city limits in April.

The Save Our Neighborhood group claims the city should have obtained approval from Lincoln County before approving the annexation. Group spokeswoman Dana Palmer also says the City Council has not listened to neighbors of the site who don't want a large-scale retail development.

"From the very beginning we've said this isn't about Walmart," Palmer said Wednesday while standing in her neighbor's driveway overlooking the soybean field where the proposed store would be built, according to KELO-TV. "It's about large retail commercial development. We welcome a Walmart, but one that's an appropriate size."

City Attorney Dave Pfeifle said he can't comment on pending litigation but that generally, an annexation does not require the approval of the County Commission if the property owner agrees to the move. Lincoln County Commissioner Dale Long agreed, telling the Argus Leader newspaper, "I think if the landowner wants to give it to the city, we're out of it."

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in state circuit court, seeks to block any further action on the Walmart proposal by the City Council. City Councilman Kermit Staggers told the Argus Leader that he is unsure how the lawsuit will affect a scheduled City Council vote next month on rezoning the annexed land from agricultural use to commercial use to accommodate the new store.

"I'm surprised that they are claiming that we illegally annexed that land into Sioux Falls," he said. "We've annexed other parts of land; it's not uncommon. It's actually fairly common."

Walmart declined to comment on Wednesday.

The Save Our Neighborhood group has hired a consultant to review Walmart's traffic analysis of the proposed site. The group has gathered enough signatures to put proposed changes to the city's zoning ordinances to a public vote next year. Opponents say the changes will ease requirements for developers and give the public less of a say in what can be built.