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Mitchell City Council, mayor warn of proposed law's impact

Mayor Lou Sebert and the Mitchell City Council once again warned citizens of potential problems if an initiated measure intended to protect public land around Lake Mitchell is approved Nov. 2.

"I think this ordinance is frankly misguided," Councilman Mel Olson said Monday evening during a council meeting at City Hall. "It doesn't do what the organizers wants it to do."

The elected officials said if it's approved by city voters, several unintended consequences will arise.

Olson and Mayor Lou Sebert said the way the initiated measure is written, it would make all city-owned land that abuts Lake Mitchell's shoreline part of the protected property. That could impact the airport, the cemetery, the new soccer complex, the city-owned land where the National Guard is based and the golf course.

"Once you've enacted an initiative, it is what it is," Sebert said.

Local residents gathered 550 signatures earlier this year to force a vote to label two parcels of city property near Lake Mitchell as parks, as well as all city land "comprising or abutting the shoreline of Lake Mitchell."

Sebert said -- and City Attorney Randy Stiles agreed with him -- that the legal definition of "abut" means any property adjoining or touching land. A road is not a barrier, so any land across the road from city property would be lumped into this classification, they said.

Olson said if the airport is labeled park land, it could lose Federal Aviation Administration grants.

Krystal Northrup, who lives near the stand of trees that launched this nearly year-long land use debate in Mitchell, rose to speak to the council.

After at first asking from the back of the room "what the h--- the airport" had to do with it, she was stopped when Sebert slammed his gavel down and asked her to come to the podium and identify herself.

"Why is the airport involved in this at all?" Northrup asked the council.

She said the petitioners only wanted to protect the trees, not impact city land use.

Olson and Councilman Scott Houwman said they agreed with her but said the way the ordinance was written, it would have other implications.

Northrup said during and after the meeting that she feels people just want to protect the trees. She told the council if the trees were removed, "a riot" would break out.

Olson said the council was trying to find a compromise earlier this year when the initiated ordinance was brought to City Hall this summer.

"We listened to the public," he said. "We did what the public wanted."

But he said what's truly ironic is that there is nothing in the measure that protects the trees. Even if it passes, the city could cut down every one of the trees.

"Where in there does it say we can't cut the trees down?" Olson said. He emphasized he was merely making a point, not calling for the removal of the trees.

"Then it was written wrong," Northrup said.

Olson and other members of the council told her they agreed with that assessment, but if voters approve it on Nov. 2, they will have to deal with this new reality.


The Sidewalk Committee approved a 2011 budget and project plan.

The plan, as detailed by Public Works Department Deputy Director Terry Johnson, calls for adding sidewalks on the north side of Birch from Foster to Wallace; on both sides of Mentzer from Eighth to 11th; on both sides of Sanborn from 15th to 19th; on the east side of Rowley from Andrews to Norway and both sides of Norway from Rowley to Main; on Dobson north of Cedar; on the north side of Pebble Beach; and on West Elm, as well as some miscellaneous work.

The work will cost $73,185, which is $13,185 more than is budgeted. The committee and council vowed to find money for the work.

Public hearings will be held on the proposed sidewalks and the projects can be viewed on the city website within a week, Johnson said.

In 2012, the city has a more ambitious plan that calls for spending $135,000 on sidewalks.

Johnson said Public Works Director Tim McGannon told him to look at the tremendous need for sidewalks in the city as "job security."

"We're probably never going to be done doing sidewalks," he said.

Lawn bowling

During a review of the Golf and Cemetery Board minutes, it was noted that Rod Titze, president of the Lakeview Lawn Bowling Association, was advised to sell some of his 600 sets of lawn bowls, but not 540 sets, according to Golf and Cemetery Director Kevin Thurman.

The goal may be to sell 200 to 300 sets to help Titze recover some of the money he personally invested in the effort, Thurman said.

Titze was asked to return in December with a funding plan for a storage building, Thurman said. A smaller building may be needed than was originally thought, he said.

Thurman said his goal was to help make lawn bowling a success in Mitchell.

Other business

In other business, the council:

• Approved written reports from various city departments and boards.

• Approved the adoption of Resolution No. 2860, the plat of Lot 14A, Block 1, Westwood First Addition.

• Approved the adoption of Resolution No. 2861, the fiscal year 2010-2011 operating agreement for Palace Transit with the state Department of Transportation. DOT will give Palace Transit about $450,000, which is almost half the department's budget.

• Held the first reading of Ordinance No. 2347, amending Ordinance No. 2053, Woodland Heights Planned Development District. Ethan Lumber Co-op, which owns the development, is seeking permission to install small storage units.

• Set a Nov. 1 hearing on the application of the Palace City Lions Club for a special event malt beverage license for the Corn Palace and City Hall on Nov. 14 for the George Jones concert.

• Approved an automatic supplement to the General Fund, Police, in the amount of $250 for a digital camera from a donation of funds from Walmart.

• Approved an agreement for civic groups for cleaning public access areas around Lake Mitchell.

• Approved the application of George Bamsey for a taxicab driver's license for E-Z Ride Taxi.

• Approved the application of Randy Horvath for a taxicab driver's license for Palace Transit.

• Noted the city's receipt of gold and platinum awards for safety during the South Dakota Municipal League's 77th annual conference earlier this month. The city's outstanding safety record is a testament to employees, the council was told. It also saves money on insurance costs.

• Sat as the Board of Adjustment and set a Nov. 1 date for a hearing on the application of Clayton Mick for a conditional use permit to operate a computer repair business at 621 West 6th Ave., and a hearing on the application of Dave Thuringer for a variance to construct a garage at 121 West Douglas Ave.

• Approved these raffle requests:

Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball, with drawings to be held on various dates of DWU women's basketball home games.

Trinity Lutheran Church, with the drawing to be held Oct. 31.

Dakota Wesleyan University Oyate Ho Waste, with the drawing to be held Nov. 6.

The Multicultural Committee, with drawings to be held on Nov. 20 and 23 and Jan. 26, 2011.

The Dakota Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross, with the drawing to be held Dec. 8.

The American Cancer Society Relay for Life, with the drawing to be held Dec. 20.

Mitchell High School girls' basketball, with the drawing to be held during the Christmas break.

The James River Valley Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, with the drawing to be held on March 19, 2011.

• Approved pay estimates.