Mitchell leaders dive into comprehensive plan providing key roadmap for future growth, housing needs

“It’s a landmark moment for all the entities working together to develop a vision for the future. Hopefully, all of the entities will work together in using this," Project leader Eric Ambroson said.

An aerial view of the Corn Palace in Mitchell, the city's biggest tourist attraction.
(Mitchell Republic file photo)

MITCHELL — A 270-page comprehensive plan with an array of recommendations to spur growth, provide housing and develop land in and around Mitchell is at the fingertips of city leaders.

Over the past five years, a leader of South Dakota’s District III Planning and Development entity has worked with city leaders, Davison County officials and Ethan and Mount Vernon leadership to put together a comprehensive plan that can serve as a roadmap for the future.

Eric Ambroson, a community development specialist with District III who played a big role in drafting the document, dubbed the plan as a “landmark moment” for the city and small surrounding communities.

“A lot of times these plans sit on a shelf, but hopefully this will be used and pulled off the shelf frequently,” Ambroson said during the April 17 city council meeting. “Hopefully, all of the entities will work together. You can amend it and update it.”

What made the new Davison County comprehensive plan unique from others, Ambroson said, was that every local government entity in the county played an active role in its development. The most recent comprehensive plan the city had done dates back to 1990, which City Planner Mark Jenniges said underscored the need for an updated plan.


Considering Mitchell’s population grew at the slowest rate from 2010 to 2020 compared to the state’s top 10 populated cities, the comprehensive plan outlined suggestions for city leaders to use to spur more growth.

Among the key suggestions that were provided for future population growth include recognizing the “importance of recreation amenities in retaining and attracting young professionals” and encouraging development that builds upon and complements healthcare and education.

As of the latest 2020 census, Mitchell had a population of 15,660. The population of Davison County, which includes Ethan and Mount Vernon, was sitting at a little over 19,000 as of 2020. Mitchell accounts for 78% of the population in Davison County, while Mount Vernon and Ethan constitute 2.54% and 1.85%, respectively.

The plan speculated that small surrounding towns will experience growth due to the close proximity of Mitchell, which are referred to as “bedroom communities.”

Housing needs

On the housing front, the comprehensive plan dove into the conditions of Mitchell homes in four residential areas. According to a 2012 housing survey that examined a total of 1,005 homes in four neighborhoods, 252 of those homes – 25% – were deemed in need of “major repair.” The survey identified 41 homes as “dilapidated.”

There were 337 homes that the survey dubbed as in “sound condition,” making up 33.5% of the 1,005 homes examined.

“To some degree or another, those neighborhoods can be revitalized,” he said.

In recent years, a new nonprofit organization called Mitchell Area Housing Incorporated formed with a mission to demolish dilapidated houses and make way for new homes. While the organization’s work is one move that could help revitalize blighted residential lots, the city is taking its own step in proposing a discretionary tax benefit for property owners who have a corroding home or building in a defined area in need of revitalization.


Data in the plan showed Mitchell had a total of 7,855 units as of 2020, up about 800 compared to the amount in 2010. The median value of owner occupied homes in Mitchell in 2020 was $147,400, according to the data.

Assuming Davison County experiences sustained population growth, the plan says 1,263 housing units will be needed over the next 20 years to meet demand. The document estimates roughly 675 acres of land or more would be needed to bring the recommended number of homes over the next two decades.

A handful of housing developments that are in the early stages will provide the Mitchell area with a variety of new units, which was mentioned in the documents as progress.

With a dwindling stock of inventory of affordable homes and multi unit dwellings, Jeremy Jensen said the demand for new homes in the $250,000 to $300,000 price range in Mitchell is greater than ever.

The plan provided key recommendations for city and county leaders to consider when housing future developments emerge, including avoiding areas where “environmental limitations such as steep slopes, poor drainage, and flood hazard potential” exist and steering away from “water-oriented” development due to potential conflicts with recreational or agricultural land uses.

Housing isn’t the only industry that will require a hefty amount of future land in the county. According to the comprehensive plan, roughly 125 acres of land will be needed to accommodate future economic development and industries.

“I could see this document setting the course for future discussions about land uses, not just in Mitchell, but around Mitchell,” he said.

After giving the council a brief summary, Ambroson highlighted comprehensive city plans are advantageous in securing grant funding for future city projects. Mitchell has relied heavily on grant funding for major infrastructure projects over the past few years.

“The document itself isn’t going to be a golden ticket to any grant funding, however, a lot of grant agencies may ask if a certain project you’re seeking grant funding is consistent with your comprehensive plan,” Ambroson said.

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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