Planning Commission denies recommendation to vacate alley near GT Body

On the right side is the gravel alley that Greg Tilberg is seeking to vacate, while the left side grass alley is the other access point to the lots on the corner of South Rowley Street and West Havens Avenue. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

A nearby property owner’s request to vacate an alley on the corner of West Havens Avenue and South Rowley Street didn't receive the Planning and Zoning Commission's support on Monday.

Greg Tilberg’s request to vacate a 20-by-158-foot alley that stretches from South Rowley into the parking lot of Tilberg’s auto body shop, GT Body, came up against opposition from another nearby property owner who claimed vacating the alley would restrict access to his home. The push back from a couple of nearby residents ultimately led the Planning Commission to vote 6-1 against vacating the alley. Commission member Doug Molumby made the lone vote to approve the request, siding with Tilberg. The Mitchell City Council will now make the final decision at the Sept. 21 council meeting.

The primary reason behind Tilberg’s request to vacate the alley centers around the potential of selling the property in the future. If there comes a time that he decides to eventually sell his property -- which could entail selling the mobile home lots and the body shop he owns -- Tilberg said he would like to have the alley included in the sale to eliminate confusion and potential alley maintenance issues.

“To sell the property someday, you would definitely want this squared away and done right,” Tilberg said. “When I go to sell the property, how would that work with me owning the lots all around the alley, but yet the city owns the alley in the middle of them?”

Robert Ball, owner of the nearby house on 800 S. Rowley St., opposed the request to vacate the alley due to access restrictions. As of now, the city of Mitchell owns the gravel alley, which provides another access way to the backyard of Ball’s residence. There is also a grass alley that stretches from Havens Avenue and abuts to the gravel alley, which can serve as another access point for Ball to enter his residence from the backyard.


“That’s why they never vacated it years ago, because the people who owned the houses then didn’t want it vacated,” Ball said.

Over the past 22 years, Tilberg said he wasn’t aware that the city owned the alley. Rather, he was under the assumption that the previous property owners had the alley vacated. Considering Tilberg said he’s plowed the snow on the alley for the past two decades, it also gave him the impression that the alley was vacated and didn’t belong to the city.

While Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson noted Ball could have access to the back side of their home from Havens Avenue, he said there is a curb with a steep decline in that particular area. According to Everson, the steep drop off along Havens Avenue would make it extremely difficult for an alley to be constructed in the backyard of Ball’s house.

“There will never be a curb cut there because of the 10 foot drop right off the street,” Everson said. “There is no way you would ever be able to put an alley in there.”

Council Vice President Dan Allen, the Planning Commission liaison, suggested to consider vacating the alley with the condition of allowing Ball and Tilberg to work out an agreement for accessing the alley. Molumby backed the suggestion, which was the basis of his lone vote to approve the request.

Tilberg said he would allow Ball to utilize the alley if the City Council decides to approve Tilberg’s request to vacate the alley.

“I believe that if you approve to vacate it, you go ahead and say in the council minutes that Mr. Tilberg and Mr. Ball would work something out for access to the back of those lots,” Allen said. “I don’t see why that wouldn’t be efficient.”


Shown here is the gravel alley that Greg Tilberg is seeking to vacate along the corner of South Rowley Street and West Havens Avenue. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

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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