Minnehaha County Commission trying to put the cat back in the bag on Short-Term vacation rentals

I guess short-term rentals in MC have become the wild west of vacation rentals;

The Minnehaha Planning Commission is looking to propose a clearer definition – and tighter regulations – for Airbnbs and other short-term vacation rentals in the county. Here’s what an early draft would mean for local rentals.

While I support some regulation, and many neighbors do also, I think some of the recommendations are extremely broad, ignorant and unneeded.

It would also create a separate conditional use permit specific to Airbnb-type rentals. That permit would have its own set of requirements.

I agree there needs to be registration, but it should be a simple filing fee of $50 or so, not $500 per year. I also think the city should piggyback on the proposal and impose quarterly health inspections to insure there are no issues with bed bugs, plumbing, HVAC, etc. just like hotel rooms. There should also be a county and city BID tax applied to such entities. But there are some pie in the sky proposals;

  • Vacation rentals can’t have more than two guests per bedroom.

There is absolutely NO way of enforcing this. Is the county and perhaps the city going to show up in the middle of the night to every single rental when they have a resident and make sure this rule is being abided by? Hell No! Making rules you won’t or can’t enforce reminds me of the tobacco ban in city parks or texting and driving. When you make a law, and ordinance or rule, you must also have a plan for enforcement, what is that plan?

  • Minimum parking requirements are one space per guest. (So, if you’ve got an Airbnb that sleeps 12, you need 12 parking spots minimum.)

This one made me bust up laughing. So if a family of 6 rents a place, they have to have 6 parking spots for the two adult parents and 4 children? Or the individual business traveler who takes and UBER to their destination? While I do support some kind of parking requirement, it should only be a minimum two spots per unit. I have used VRBO in the past, and their has only been ONE parking spot provided (that I didn’t use).

There is also NO reason to regulate this private property industry past health inspections and registration since the industry does a pretty good job of regulating BAD clients. You can’t just show up an hour before booking and move in, you have to be vetted by the the service providers and can be denied for any reason.

I have to say the reason I think short-term vacation rentals are so popular is because they are more affordable then hotel stays and my experience has been stellar. It’s like having your own condo on vacation without room service but the comforts of home. Here is a picture of my building patio view at my last VRBO which cost about 75% less then a hotel room miles from the beach.

I wonder if the MCC even did a nationwide study of what other cities and counties do, or if they just listened to some whiny neighbors on Wall Lake?

Short term rentals DO need regulation, but it should be applied in baby steps, and it should have a plan for enforcement.

Lincoln County feet dragging is costing taxpayers millions

As long as I can remember, Lincoln County has been saying they need a new jail, courthouse and administrative offices;

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, after years of study, is poised to select one of two options to address the critical need for additional courtroom space. After careful analysis and input from the court system, the Tegra Group from Minneapolis and a citizen advisory committee, two options were found, with a greenfield site being the most advantageous.

Many people have told me that the greenfield site makes the most sense because of parking availability.

The Commission has been very conscious of the cost and impact on the taxpayer. While Lincoln County’s tax levy is one of the lowest in the state, any tax increase has to be scrutinized.

Lincoln County has the lowest per capita debt of any county in the state considering it’s property values and size. The county is flush with property tax revenue. There really is NO excuse that they have dragged their feet for so long except for lacking courage and incredible incompetence. With inflation over the past year and the rising cost of construction it is easy to estimate that if they would have pulled the trigger just 5-10 years ago they would have saved taxpayers millions. While controversy and debate between commissioners can be valuable to the process it can also hamper making logical fiscal decisions. We elect representatives to make important decisions about our public needs, if only they can get out of bed and make those decisions. I pity Lincoln County residents.

Sioux Falls City Council Agenda, Dec 6-7, 2022

Current City Calendar

Council Informational Meeting • 4 PM Tuesday Dec 6

• Traffic 101 by Andy Berg, City Engineer (Not sure what this is but I guess the council is getting some skoolin’ on roads)

Council Regular Meeting • 6 PM Tuesday Dec 6

Item 6, Sub-Item 22; Entertainment Facilities, Washington Pavilion Building Improvements – Balustrade and Cornice Remodel; To award a bid, McGill Restoration, Inc., $5.9 Million, There is available budget to award this bid out of the Washington Pavilion CIP budget. (this is code for ‘entertainment tax’ the slush fund the Pavilion and city have been using to make repairs to the city owned facility. I have argued for a long time that they could just remove the bad balustrades and plug the holes for a lot less, even though the contractors say otherwise. No one would know any different if they were removed permanently. This should have been done 20 years ago when the problem came up, but now we are looking for a $6 million dollar fix while the Pavilion’s management sits on over $5 million in a savings account. The image below is a photoshop rendition of what the Pavilion would look like without the balustrades. While the city decries tax cuts in their legislative priorities, they seem to have plenty of money for glamor and appearance projects.

Items 20-86 (there are several VL lottery requests in the wake of the recent cap. I implore the council to pull each license and vote on them individually).

Item #96, 2nd Reading: AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF SIOUX FALLS, SD, AMENDING THE CODE OF ORDINANCES OF THE CITY BY AMENDING CHAPTER 37: TAXATION. Sponsor, Mayor, Background & Objective:  The proposed changes are a result of the work done by Downtown Sioux Falls, Inc. on the Main Street Sioux Falls Business Improvement District Growth Plan. The Plan proposes additional and enhanced services to best position downtown for growth and to address common issues. Additional funding would be generated by these proposed amendments to achieve the additional and enhanced services. (After this was explained to me, I support the amendments even, but you have to wonder why the mayor is sponsoring a tax increase? The council should have been the ones to bring this forward, but maybe they need 3-4 more full-time employees to assist them with their very difficult job of creating policy. I still think a better approach would be for the parking department to be in charge of the maintenance DTSF since they do collect a majority of parking fees in the downtown area and let DTSF concentrate on marketing, programming and business services with fees collected. DTSF shouldn’t have to beg for tax code changes to water plants and sweep the sidewalks, the city has plenty of money to take care of the maintenance and beautification of downtown).

Item #98, 1st Reading: AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF SIOUX FALLS, SD, AMENDING THE REVISED ORDINANCES OF THE CITY BY ESTABLISHING AN ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION BOARD. Sponsor: Mayor Background & Objective: The purpose of the Sioux Falls Active Transportation Board (ATB) is to advise the city council, city departments, and city boards regarding bicycle, pedestrian, and other active transportation and accessible pedestrian transportation modes. (While this is a great idea, this should have been initiated by the city council, like the homeless task force. The council will ultimately have to vote on any changes and they should be actively involved in shaping these policies moving forward. Just another fancy task force the mayor and his staff have cooked up to make it look like they are doing something. I heard in the first meeting they will spend the first 45 minutes rearranging chairs in the conference room. As an all season bicyclist and active street rider since the early 90’s in Sioux Falls, I would love to sit on this board and give my perspective of what I have seen. I would apply, but most likely my application would end up where my other city board’s applications have ended up 🙂

Item #99, A RESOLUTION APPROVING THE MINNESOTA AVENUE CORRIDOR PHASE I LAND USE REPORT. Sponsor: Mayor, Background & Objective: That the City of Sioux Falls adopts the Minnesota Avenue Phase I Land Use Report to provide policies and guidance for future rezoning proposals, conditional use requests, redevelopment grant funding, and other redevelopment proposals. (I have been watching this construction play out, and from what I have been hearing from residents and business owners in the affected area is that while the city has been having listening/learning sessions they ultimately are doing what they want to with little to no regard from private recommendations. Minnesota Avenue should have started this process 30 years ago. I remember De Knudson and Dr. Staggers recommending changes to this corridor with no avail. I guess better late then never.

Item #100, A  RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR TO ENTER INTO AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE CITY OF SIOUX FALLS AND WASHINGTON PAVILION MANAGEMENT, INC. FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF THE WASHINGTON PAVILION OF ARTS AND SCIENCE, ORPHEUM THEATER, AND THE MUNICIPAL BAND. Background & Objective: Resolution to approve entering into a five-year management agreement with Washington Pavilion Management, Inc. to manage the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, Orpheum Theater, and the Sioux Falls Municipal Band. Agreement covers the years 2023-2027. Details of the new proposed Agreement were presented at the City Council’s Informational Meeting on November 22. (While there was a presentation on the renewal, the Pavilion talked very little about their financial status. Do they really need an operating subsidy from the city when we dump millions into the place each year in maintenance? I think with $5 million in savings – growing a whopping $2 million last year – it is time the Pavilion put on their big kid pants and operated on their own coin considering NOTHING is FREE to use in the building except the toilet and water fountain. It certainly hasn’t become the place for ‘everyone’ but is has been costing ‘everyone’ in Sioux Falls a pretty penny.)

Council Working Session • 3 PM Wednesday Dec 7

• Legislative Priorities. Their priorities seem to be PRO-TAX for citizens while advocating for a tax break for themselves;

4. We support efforts to eliminate double taxation on public projects through the state use and contractor’s excise taxes.

I would agree that making citizens pay excise taxes on public projects is silly, BUT it is the contractors who build the projects that pay the tax. If this tax is eliminated, would the contractor pass those savings onto the city?

5. We oppose any legislation that would reduce or repeal any municipal or county tax.

This of course may apply to the food tax. I think it is incredibly short-sighted to support a food tax cut statewide but not municipal. I think if we eliminate the food tax in Pierre, it needs to apply to cities also. I have also argued for a long time, the city is overtaxing us. If you have over $70 million in your reserves (a savings account) you have to ask yourself if the city is collecting too much in taxes. I don’t care how large the city’s budget is, there is NO justification of having that much in reserves.

7. We support tax increment financing (TIF), an economic development tool that has led to millions of dollars in increased property value, benefitting both the state as a whole and the local entities sponsoring the districts, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the process.

Integrity of the process? Benefits? As I have stated over the years, there has been NO comprehensive independent study of what those benefits are and the process. I recently received a tip that one of the more recent TIFs the city council issued was based on NO financial review of the recipient, or at least not a comprehensive one. Did we learn anything from the bunker ramp fiasco? Maybe Neitzert is right, maybe we need to do an investigation to see just how bad city government screwed the pooch on that one.

Speaking of process integrity, I was made aware last week that a current city director is being asked now to run two separate departments that have very little to do with each other. While he is an educated, qualified director for the one department he currently runs he has zero qualifications for running the other department. While we could surmise why PTH makes such idiotic decisions (he has NO leadership skills) you have to wonder why this director would agree to such a thing, even with a significant pay increase? I guess when he quits in frustration or gets fired the administration will just chalk it up as par for the coarse. I think Amazon management has a lower turnover rate.

Planning Commission • 6 PM Wednesday Dec 7

Item 5A, Petition: CU-017246-2022: Conditional Use Permit to allow for a Full Service Restaurant within 250′ of a sensitive land use.  Operations will include On-Sale Alcohol with supplemental video lottery located at 7601 S. LOUISE AVE.

What I find interesting about this item is how some entities will come to the planning commission asking for conditional use permits without even having a business name. If you review the documents you will see this is basically a 3 tiered casino that has a pizza oven.

He envisions a restaurant centered around brick-oven pizza and with pasta dishes, salads and other family-friendly menu items.

Nothing says family friendly like 30 video lottery machines and a pepperoni pizza. “Where’s dad?” Asks Johnny. “He’s hopefully winning this month’s rent in the other room.” Mom replies.

Sioux Falls City Council Operations Committee Meeting

They discussed several changes to their policy manual including;

• Reimbursing council staff for local travel (this basically would fall in line with the administration’s staff).

• Updating attending meetings remotely (City Clerk Greco did suggest this be updated, he didn’t say it was being abused, but you got the feeling it has become complicated. IMO it was being abused after Covid and it needs to become more strict).

• They discussed limitations on public comment (Clerk Greco referenced that meetings needed to wrap up at a certain time and that may be why public input is limited. Hogwash. Any meeting that may go over an allotted time slot can be recessed to the next day to allow for more information. One of the main reasons regular city council meetings were held at 7 PM instead of 6 PM was to allow more time for presentations at the informational, while also allowing a dinner recess for the council. Now everything is slammed in. The real change would be moving the meetings back to 7 PM with 5 minutes of public input at the beginning).

• Council Chair Soehl said being chair has left him out of touch with the other councilors (I found the statement completely odd considering the main role of the two council chairs is to inform the rest of the council of what the administration is up to. A council chair that is NOT communicating with the rest of the council is a serious issue and the procedures should be put in writing).

• Councilor Merkouris suggested not having an audit manager and maybe replacing them with an operations assistant or an executive assistant to the council. (Not needed. The audit committee should just hand down the audit directives to the current two auditors and management review can be done by the chair of that committee. The city council already has 3 clerks, an operations manager, a legislative manager and 2 auditors, they have plenty of staff. I have even suggested in the past they we eliminate our legislative manager (not sure what the guy does) and our head city clerk and have the duty shared by the two assistant clerks. I believe the current city council staff does a decent job, and I have never felt they are overwhelmed. The issues with the council, communication and transparency with citizens sits with the elected councilors NOT council staff. If the council wants to make communications better, the council has to put forth the initiative NOT the council staff).

• Neitzert brings up the question of who’s responsibility it is to inform the rest of the council about disciplinary action by the vice-chair when it comes to HR issues and council staff. (I find the timing of the question interesting considering the recent departure of the audit manager, was she under some disciplinary action at the time of her departure)?

• Neitzert also adds that the informational meetings are being rushed.

Noem bans Chinese owned TikTok

It’s about those pesky communists;

“South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of nations who hate us,” Noem said in a statement. “The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people, and they gather data off the devices that access the platform.”

Of course, our mayor is still on his ‘save the kids’ campaign he must be carrying over from the anti-IM 27 campaign;

“This app needs more federal scrutiny to ensure our kids (and national security) are protected,” TenHaken wrote on social media.

Okay, why stop there?

• Why not BAN state government from purchasing any products made in China?

• Why not BAN any 5G antenna equipment from China?

• Why not BAN farmland or any property owned by Chinese investors? Or businesses (Like Smithfields)

This is more huff and puff and smoke blowing from the biggest offenders. Hypocrisy at it’s best. Now let’s go fight homeless cannabis use, the real problem ravaging our state ;(

Hospital Record Data Breach

I found this DakotaNewsNow story to be missing some important details;

A letter sent out by AAA Collections is informing many that their name and Social Security numbers could be compromised. The data breach stems from a period of three days in early September when the company’s computer system was compromised. By the time it was found and stopped, documents containing names and Social Security Numbers were copied. South Dakota law requires any large breach to be reported to the Attorney General’s office, as well as notices sent out to anyone that might have been affected.

• Who owns AAA? The company started in 1965 and at one point I think it changed hands between hospitals and a bank. I’m don’t know who owns them now.

• What hospitals/clinics were affected? Avera? Sanford? specialty hospitals? Falls Community Health? Why didn’t any of these institutions send out letters?

• Were laws broken about when they needed to inform clients? Is AAA responsible or the other institutions? It’s been around 90 days since the event took place, I believe they only had 60 days to inform clients.

I have heard from several people who got the letter. One of them is a patient at Falls Community Health. When did the city/county know, and when were they going to inform patients?

The speculation as to why this took so long was that AAA was trying to fix it internally hoping to avoid a disaster but that didn’t go so well.

Either way, I’m not sure why any scammer would want the Social Security numbers of people with bad credit.

Jesus Snowplows invade the South Dakota State Capital, sorta

When I started reading this article, it reminded me of the Jesus Snowplows in Sioux Falls (there are 2 this year).

That’s because several chairs in the committee room where the votes took place were adorned with holy crosses ahead of the meeting.

And now, the well-intended gesture by Sioux Falls Rep. Sue Peterson and others is drawing the attention of the South Dakota Legislature’s Executive Board, which will consider if action is necessary should the oil substance used to make the markings be unable to be removed.

When are these politicians going to figure out they can’t use taxpayer funded property as if it were their church? But there are other issues besides separation of church and state;

“We were simply praying and blessing the room in which leadership elections were going to be held,” she added (Sue Peterson). “It appears that someone is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill and shame me for my Christian faith.”

Even if you ignore Sue’s little Jesus moment, she also may have damaged taxpayer property, and she could be charged with a crime.

There is nothing wrong with a legislator having faith in a religion, there is also nothing wrong with them praying before a meeting, I actually support an invocation (invented by Ben Franklin, a deist). I wouldn’t even of cared if she passed out New Testaments at the meeting, BUT, you cannot defile or decorate taxpayer owned property with religious symbolism (or any symbolism) BECAUSE WE OWN IT!

I think a fitting punishment would be making Sue lick the crosses off the chairs. Maybe she could bring her son Robert who has been actively licking his wounds after the slaughterhouse ordinance failed.

Walker takes a page from Noem and Paul campaigns

You are NOT seeing triplets, decorated swimmer Riley Gaines is jetsetting the country with her ads and after helping Rand Paul and Kristi Noem, she is headed to Georgia to help out philanderer Hershel Walker. Instead of just pretending to defend women in sports, maybe she should be defending ALL women!

Sioux Falls City Council Informational Meeting

Next week the city council has decided to tackle three big topics all in one game;

• Washington Pavilion Management Agreement Renewal by Shawn Pritchett, Finance Director

(two questions councilors need to ask; 1) what is the current compensation of the CEO, Darrin Smith & 2) Why is there $5.2 million dollars in the management companies savings account? Also curious is how that savings account jumped $2.2 million in one year? I will be honest with you, I think it is wonderful the Pavilion is building such an account, but it should be an endowment. And why do we continue to subsidize them operationally? I don’t take issue with maintenance costs, because as taxpayers, we own the joint, but after over 20 years, when will it become the place for ‘EVERYBODY’?)

• Homeless Task Force Report by Council Member Rich Merkouris Here is a simple breakdown from The Dakota Scout (and me);

• $500,000 – Homeless engagement

The recommendation calls for entering into a contract with a third party on a two-year pilot project referred to as a street outreach team.

The cost estimate of $500,000 includes $300,000 in the first year and another $200,000 the second.

(This is a good step forward, BUT, the SFPD also needs to have officers on follows to learn from this. I guess it has been successful in Rapid City.)

• $125,000 – Public education

The task force wants to tap into the existing nonprofits already working in the social services arena to develop a public education campaign that teaches area residents about the challenges of homelessness, how it can be addressed and how to deal with panhandling.

(I personally think it is ludicrous to have to educate people about panhandling and homelessness, BUT, before I lived in a NW coastal city in my teens, I knew very little about these things so it is merited, BUT, the local media, print, radio and TV need to step up and just do this out of the goodness of their hearts.)

•$352,000 – Rally around Network of Care

A grant program could be created to help more nonprofits and other social service agencies become partners in the Helpline Center’s Network of Care, which was created in 2015 to give social service agencies a mechanism to connect with each other in aiding clients.

Of that $352,000, $250,000 would specifically be used to fund the grant program, while the task force is calling for an additional $102,000 directly for the Helpline Center “for HIPAA compliance,” the recommendation reads.

(This is a wonderful software(?) program, the issue I have is the cost. If every service registered with this program used it, wouldn’t that bring the cost down? A good question to ask.)

• $500,000+ – ‘Housing First wraparound services’

The City Council will be asked to create a joint committee with the Minnehaha County Commission to explore grant funding opportunities for new properties and partnerships that could lead to additional housing stability with associated programming for employment and substance abuse recovery support.

While there’s no finite estimate on what it might cost, Merkouris speculated it could be anywhere from $500,000 to as much as the Council and county might be willing dedicate to the plan.

(I have argued from the beginning that this would be costly, BUT we need a plan to look at before throwing money at it. There are zoning laws and regs we could change to force developers to provide this kind of housing which would cost taxpayers $0.)

• SiouxFalls.org Website Redesign by Allie Hartzler, Communications and Culture Officer; and Justine Murtha, Digital Communications Manager;

• siouxfalls.org was last redesigned in 2016.
• Each month, the website has more than 70,000 monthly users, with 60% of users visiting on mobile devices.
• More than 4,800 pages, 9,000 documents, and 6,000 images* exist today.
• In June 2022, the City selected Granicus as a partner for the redesign.

(This is long overdue, and I feel sorry for Allie for getting this dumped in her lap, and the newly hired(?) Digital Communications Manager. But I also argue that this isn’t rocket science. The internet has been around for 30 years, web programming is mostly on auto-pilot and we can learn from other cities, like Omaha, who has a great city website. And we certainly should NOT be hiring a company that has f’kup our website and council agendas for years. It could be done internally by a very capable IT department (would have been a great work at home Covid project) but once again we are jobbing it out.)

A tax cut I can get behind!

Finally, the legislature is proposing a property tax cut this session;

“Because it would exempt the first $100,000 in valuation from taxing,” Ladner said. “Rather than a proportional cut, South Dakotans with smaller home value will get a bigger percentage tax cut from this mechanism.”

In Sioux Falls that would be about $1,500 a year tax break. Of course, I doubt this even gets out of committee considering towns, schools and counties will push back on it. It would help a lot of first time homebuyers getting into a starter home and the elderly on a fixed income.