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Buyer's plans to turn former Kelley property into wedding venue sparking opposition

Traffic concerns, noise and increased dust from vehicles were several concerns that nearby property owners had over the buyer behind the $1.59 million approved offer of the former Kelley home.

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Shown here is the front entrance of the former Kelley house that a buyer is seeking to transform into a wedding and event venue.
Sam Fosness / Republic
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MITCHELL — The buyer behind the $1.5 million Kelley home has begun pursuing a conditional use permit to operate a wedding venue at the property, but some nearby residents are pushing back.

During Monday’s city Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, a handful of nearby residents voiced concerns of the million-dollar property becoming a wedding venue. Among the concerns that surfaced at the meeting were increased traffic, noise and safety worries.

Shirley Thompson, who recently purchased a property neighboring the former Kelley home, echoed safety concerns of the potential influx in traffic that the gravel roads could see during weddings and gatherings.

“I have a lot of concerns. There is already a lot of traffic. Dust is already an issue. What’s to keep drunk people from wandering onto my property at the end of the night?” Thompson asked.

Loren Van Overschelde, a longtime nearby resident, characterized the plan for the property as a wedding venue moving in on the nearby residents who were there first.

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“Those houses were there before a wedding venue was there. The houses didn’t move in on the wedding venue or hunter’s venue. I like where I live. It’s quiet out there, and I like it to see it stay that way,” he said. “Harvey (Kelley) over the years would maintain the dust control on the roads at his own expense. You throw 40 to 50 cars on there, imagine what that would look like.”

After hearing concerns over the buyer’s plan to open a wedding and event venue, the Planning and Zoning Commission narrowly approved recommending the conditional use permit in a 4-3 vote. The Mitchell City Council will ultimately determine whether to grant the conditional use permit, which the buyer stipulated must be secured for the sale to be finalized.

Don Petersen, a Mitchell attorney representing the buyer, highlighted there are wedding venues in rural settings “all over the state of South Dakota” similar to that of the former Kelley property, which sits about 2 miles west of Lake Mitchell. Petersen provided more details of what the future wedding venue setup would look like.

“We’re not inventing a new deal here. They are anticipating using this area like a wedding venue for small group gatherings, and maybe a type of bed and breakfast or hunting,” Petersen said, noting the buyer plans to install a parking lot for the event setup.

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Shown here is the back of the former Kelley house that city of Mitchell purchased in 2019.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

With the property being located in city limits and neighboring Davison County lines, Jeff Harris, who lives near the property, asked how the venue would be patrolled.

In response, city officials said the Mitchell Police Department would be tasked with patrolling the area. Petersen said the buyer is aware of the 11 p.m. city noise ordinance and noted a special event permit would be required for noise-related matters beyond 11 p.m.

Petersen said the buyer is purchasing the property for an investment and anticipates the property being used for events on a steady basis.

Davison County Commissioner Denny Kiner urged city officials to “take a hard look” at implementing safety measures if the property becomes a wedding venue as planned.

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In June, the Mitchell City Council approved a $1.59 million offer on the Kelley home, which came with a little over 10 acres surrounding it and a large accessory building. The buyer has chosen to remain anonymous until the deal is complete. Securing the conditional use permit is one major stipulation the buyer has attached to be finalized.

When the council unanimously approved the sale of the property in June, Mitchell realtor Brian Eliason informed the governing body about the buyer’s contingencies of the conditional use permit for a future wedding venue.

After the city listed the home on the market two years ago at a price tag of $3.5 million, it was lowered several times since in hopes of attracting a buyer. While the city has found its first buyer who has been approved to purchase the property, the council’s future decision on the conditional use permit will be the next step in determining whether the house gets sold and comes off the tax rolls.

Selling the home has been a shared focus among city leaders. After all, acquiring the home was not the intention of the 371-acre land purchase. Rather, the land buy was solely for the upcoming wetland project to reduce the nutrient loads and runoff flowing into the lake via Firesteel Creek. The former homeowner stipulated the home must come with the land purchase.

Questions about building codes surface

Although the building codes that would be required for the property to transform into a wedding venue and gathering space are entirely separate matters, Tom Starr, a nearby resident, pressed the commission members about what type of codes would be needed.

John Hegg, the city’s building inspector, noted that whatever buildings on the property are planned to be utilized for the venue setup will be required to meet the city’s building codes for assembly buildings due to it being located within city limits.

Prior to Commission member Larry Jirsa giving his nod of approval for the permit, he said “there is a lot of stuff” that would need to be done for the 10,095-square-foot home to transform into a wedding style venue. However, the buyer has the option to utilize the accessory building as the wedding gathering hall and not the home or vice versa.

“Being an assembly building, there are a whole lot of new codes and requirements that would have to be met. That’s a whole other issue. Changing a residential building to an assembly building is a major deal,” Jirsa said of the house.

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Shown here is the front entrance of the former Kelley house.
Sam Fosness / Republic

Hegg would be the city official tasked with reviewing the building codes.

The property was annexed into the city shortly after the city purchased it in 2019.

Jirsa, Jon Osterloo, Jay Larson and Chad Penney were among the commission members who approved the conditional use permit. Genzlinger, Jon Schmitz and Jacob Sonne voted against approval of the permit.

The council’s decision on the permit will take place at the Sept. 19 meeting at 6 p.m.

More from Sam Fosness ...
According to City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein, several of the nonprofits that asked for subsidies saw significant growth in their cash fund balances in recent years.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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