Sioux Falls Chamber Advocate concerned about NOT allowing street vacations

You can watch the 4+ hour council meeting above.

The Chamber Advocate uses some strong language when it comes to street vacations;

Resolution to vacate portions of S. Elmwood Ave to facilitate expansion of Lifescape parking fails

One of the longest public input periods and council debates in recent years led to a vote to not allow a requested street vacation at the Tuesday, Feb. 12 city council meeting. The decision may also increase uncertainty for future business expansion and development in Sioux Falls.

I was actually surprised that the Chair, Mayor TenHaken, didn’t implement a rule that the past chair used to do by limiting repetitive input. I counted well over 20 people who said the same exact thing “I’m a LifeScape employee concerned about the safety of the children.” While I support public input at all levels and think everyone has a right to be heard, I think after hearing it 4 times the chair should have asked the crowd to stand if they were going to testify they were employees of Lifescape that were concerned about the safety of the children. You could have easily shaved off an hour of testimony and it would have probably had a bigger impact seeing 30 people standing. I believe the chair allowed the repetitive comments because he was on their side.

Leadership of LifeScape, a non-profit serving children with disabilities, requested the partial vacation and street closures of portions of S. Elmwood Street. The street closure would facilitate planned expansion and alleviate on-street parking in other parts of the neighborhood.

The only evidence LifeScape provided was that they would gain about 15 new parking spots for employees and visitors for closing the street. I was disappointed that they provided NO evidence that the closure would make drop offs safer. If they would have, I think the vacation would have been justified.

City staff summarized their review of utility easements, traffic counts and projected traffic models. City traffic projections suggested that as LifeScape grows, there is likely to be increased on-street parking in the area if no additional parking is provided. Past right of way vacations in other areas for similar purposes were shown to have reduced traffic and on-street parking in neighborhoods. City staff recommended vacating the street as requested by LifeScape.

The only ‘growth’ LifeScape has committed to was building a parking lot for their staff since their lease was cancelled with the VA. There was ZERO discussion of expanding the actual facility.

LifeScape requested vacation of the right of way in order to add 148 on-site parking stalls. Numerous LifeScape staff and employees stressed the planned parking and expansion would facilitate student safety for those they serve.

Like I already stated, they continued to talk about how it would make it safer for the kids but never presented a plan as to how that would work. They did talk about staff crossing the street, but as I understand it, they try to drop off students at the door. Another fallacy is that closing the street and stopping street parking makes it safer. Actually street parking makes the street narrower which has been proven to make the area safer because cars go at a slower speed. By closing Elmwood, you would only increase traffic on streets surrounding LifeScape, and with employees not parking on those streets anymore, the speeds would increase. You could argue that the street closure actually makes the neighborhood less safe. Of course the Chamber, in all of their wisdom argues the exact opposite;

Councilors and public testifiers highlighted that irrespective of the council vote, the parking lot as proposed will be put expanded as LifeScape owns the property. The on-street parking would be reduced if the street vacation was approved. Likewise, street vacation will result in added safety for students, not only for children/students but for all staff and neighborhood residents.

The period for public testimony was very long, with nearly 40 proponents and opponents testifying on differing aspects of the project.

This was actually the best thing that came out of the night, public engagement by people who don’t normally engage their government (even though many of them were paid or forced to be there. I wonder if we will see them testify for other street vacations that don’t affect their employment?)

Councilors Selberg, Neitzert, Soehl, Kiley, and Erickson advocated for the street vacation – highlighting the importance of Lifescape in the community and the need Lifescape fills for students and families.

The Chamber has a long history of ‘Praising Councilors’ and shaming the ones that didn’t vote their way. I’m not sure the 5 that voted for this deserve praise. Voting to give away taxpayer property, a street that the public gets usage out of, to a private organization while telling it’s residents who live in the neighborhood to go to Hell goes against the duties of a city councilor. They are an elected representative of the taxpayers of this community. They should be looking out for OUR interests first. Councilor Neitzert made the comment that as a city councilor he needs to make decisions on what is best for the ‘city’. While their is some truth in that statement, he fails to understand who makes up this ‘city’. It’s residents who hold these neighborhoods together. When was the last time you saw a local non-profit or business donate to a neighborhood for it’s preservation instead of it’s destruction? I know that All Saints donated to the neighborhood after their expansion, which I felt was different because they owned the land they expanded on that was serving NO public good. And LifeScape is being afforded the exact same right. They are able to build a parking lot on the land they own, no one is stopping them from that. I am just puzzled how they lost Tuesday night?

Ultimately the council voted not to approve the street vacation as proposed on a 5 yes to 3 no vote. Street vacations require a super majority, hence it would have required 6 voting yes to pass.

The Chamber, economic development groups, and development companies in Sioux Falls monitored the process closely. Future business expansion and investment in core neighborhoods are anticipated lead to requests for street vacations in the future as the city grows.

This final statement while TRUE, is also extremely misleading and threatening. On one hand they are claiming they are investing in these neighborhoods. Quite the opposite, they are investing in their own business while divesting established neighborhoods, by eliminating affordable housing, decreasing personal home values while paving and institutionalizing established CORE neighborhoods. It’s all smoke and mirrors and it’s disgusting to watch our Chamber threaten elected officials in this manner. It’s also disgusting to watch 5 of the ‘praised ones’ roll over for the Chamber.



4 comments ↓

#1 SL on 02.16.19 at 8:40 pm

The voting I saw was predictable. It’s so easy to pick out the ‘YES’ vote councilors. Sure do hope that their voting record is a topic of discussion at election time.

#2 "Very Stable Genius" on 02.17.19 at 12:08 pm

“‘The Enablers:’ This fall on NBC…. Watch as the Yes Team puts things in action as an enabling group of brown nosers….”

#3 Jannelle Cain on 02.17.19 at 1:06 pm

Very true and good observations! As one of the three home owners with their parking lot going in across my back yard fence I can tell you this has brought this neighborhood together and if they want another round of it… which I am sure they will try…. it will bring even more of us out of the neighborhood to fight it when it is common knowledge within that company they have been planning a move for a long time…they just don’t have the location yet!

#4 D@ily Spin on 02.18.19 at 8:02 am

What if the mayor invokes Strong Mayor and declares street vacations a city emergency? Trump has taught politicians that frivolously declaring an emergency will build his 8 billion wall. It’s a republican state, similar action can happen here.

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