UPDATE: Sioux Falls City council votes 5-3 to NOT vacate Elmwood Avenue

It takes a super majority to close a street (6-2). Councilors Starr, Stehly and Brekke voted against the vacation saving Elmwood. Watch the Replay.

I will tell you that I was on the fence about this, but still lean towards leaving the street. But ironically, Lifescape still gets their parking, and still got to remove houses (Which moved to Lennox, NOT somewhere else in Sioux Falls). Lifescape didn’t lose. Also, I don’t believe there will be (worse) safety issues. The kids will still be dropped off in the same manner. All this would have done is provide about 10 more parking spots for employees while losing an important inner city street.

Brekke is right, it’s time to put together a strategic plan for our central neighborhoods so they don’t continue to get gobbled up. I was fortunate to buy my home around 16 years ago in a central neighborhood at an affordable price. I couldn’t afford my home today. All I ever see city planning and city councils do over the past decade is put out fires for poor planning. It’s got to stop.

We need to implement a strategic planning vision for the future of central neighborhoods and we need to overhaul the TIF program to assist those neighborhoods in fixing them up. The Sanfords and Lloyds of Sioux Falls are doing just fine.

UPDATE: Cameraman Bruce weighs in after attending last night’s meeting in person;

The night was full of interesting observations.

LifeScape was not the only issue the city failed on but it was the most active one. I actually want LifeScape to be creative in order to solve this issue. I have great respect for LifeScape and want them to succeed.

I for one, am always excited when people show up to be part of the process. This vacation vote showed people wanting to be involved. We must have people showing up and adding their voices to the discussion.

Most of the following thoughts reference the evening’s vacation vote because it was 3 hours and 10 minutes of the meeting. The Sioux Falls street vacation process is a cluster of a high degree. Our town’s street vacation methods have forced the town government to just let it happen because what else can you do? It is always done as a force majeure after the neighborhood damage has been done. The houses have been torn out. The trees have been cut down, The property has been made ugly. The process forces acceptance of what the applicant wants because everything is ready to go, so you better let us do this (whatever the applicant’s goal is).

If the city had a policy of helping companies and institutions with growth planning, they could stop this type of show. Why not bring in the neighbors before the plans are started? Bringing in the neighbors early into a growth discussion, an applicant might have a chance to succeed with the neighbors support. Why not have a checklist to show actually show the due diligence has been done?

The vacation issue failed because it was down to a question of process. Where and how far do we want our city staff to go with planned developments potentially destroying neighborhoods and the policies allowing it to happen.

Consider these back row observations from the back row:

– why was there so much city data available on this item but no data or contracts on most of the other evening items

– the use of tear jerking emotions not having anything to do with legal issues

– attempts at government secrecy by administration

– threats by the administration to withhold information from Council

– the use of an insensitive photograph by the administration

– the repetitive testimony, especially by the 2 dozen non-neighborhood applicant employees

– what was the purpose of the long drawn-out rambling, with pregnant pauses, by the engineering department

– the inability of some members of the dais to read the situation and move on, was it an attempt to “wear down” or “run out the clock”

– the childish behavior of some members of the dais during the presentation and after the vote (only seen by being in the room, there might be some special video coming)

– watch the emotions, I know tantrums when I see them, computers don’t like to be slammed around

The LifeScape issue should not have been a win or lose proposition. The issue was made into one by the poor way the Sioux Falls has done so many previous vacations. I am sorry it was LifeScape that got caught up in the town’s abusive past vacation policy.



#1 Theresa stehly on 02.12.19 at 11:54 pm

Thanks to all the citizens who reached out to give input on this. The respectful emails, phone calls and public input were appreciated.
Lifescape has very dedicated employees who serve our children. The neighborhood has residents who use/value the street.

#2 Scott D Hudson on 02.13.19 at 10:52 am

What is this “insensitive photograph”?

#3 l3wis on 02.13.19 at 1:57 pm

The point was instead of using the photo I linked below, they could have easily used a photo of the place being built, but they knew that wouldn’t be as emotionally charged as this one. I also believe this was cooked up by the administration and NOT Lifescape.


#4 "Very Stable Genius" on 02.13.19 at 3:05 pm

It was all a part of their “Operation: Little Rascals” strategy gone wrong. But regardless, weren’t the indigenous children the first ones there?

#5 NAN on 02.13.19 at 6:10 pm

It’s sad that Theresa Stehly put her rich friends above the lives of children with disabilities… and then pretends that middle-income housing includes her rich friend who has multiple houses and doesn’t even live in Sioux Falls most of the time

#6 The Guy from Guernsey on 02.13.19 at 10:15 pm

To Bruce’s point, be creative Lifescape. How about an elevated, covered skyway street overpass, with handicap accessible approaches from parking lot level.

#7 Theresa stehly on 02.13.19 at 10:26 pm

Nan…I have no idea what “rich friends” you are talking about. I received emails ,phone calls and letters from many concerned neighbors. Three of us on the Council voted to keep Elmwood open. If you came to give input last night, I appreciate your effort.

#8 NAN on 02.14.19 at 7:27 pm

When you’re deceased and in front of Jesus Christ, and Jesus asks you about this decision, what will you say? If he asks, “I see you had the choice between possibly saving a child’s life or the ‘feel’ of a neighborhood, and you chose against a child’s life; why?” – how will you respond? Will you say the greed of these neighbors mattered more to you? That your wrath against expanding companies spilled over to a struggling nonprofit dedicated to helping those who are less well off?

Jesus Christ spoke of helping others, of love, of compassion. As far as I know, he never spoke positively about the fleeting things of this world. When you’re dead and gone – do you want your legacy to be that you put the shallow things of this world above human life?

#9 l3wis on 02.14.19 at 8:05 pm

NAN – The famous “Everyone is going straight to Hell” argument. Nice.

#10 Blasphemo on 02.14.19 at 10:37 pm

NAN: the “struggling nonprofit” (!) apparently has the resources to vacate the present location in another five years and presumably relocate elsewhere. If they’re so dedicated to “helping those who are less well off”, they should step up their ride sharing to mitigate their short-term parking woes, and accomplish a little “saving of the planet” in the process.

#11 theresa stehly on 02.15.19 at 1:20 am

Nan, I would like to know who the “rich friends” are. I also would not classify the neighbors who reached out with concerns as greedy. I would invite the public to watch the public testimony from our meeting and judge the character of the citizens for themselves.

#12 The Guy from Guernsey on 02.15.19 at 9:05 am

“… struggling non-profit …” Yet the outgoing CEO took away $224K total annual compensation according to the most recent financials.

Your bitter series of diatribes is not a good look for Lifescape, NAN. While I’m certain you feel that you have earned salvation with your good works with Lifescapes (member of the Board of Directors?), you have commited the sin of covetousness relative to your comments about the alleged well-moneyed friend of Councilor Stehly. Who the hell are you (or Lifescape) to be entitled to diminish your neighbors’ property? Just as Councilor Stehly and the alleged well-monied friend will stand before God, so also will you will stand in judgment for the covetousness which you display in your wicked judgmental comments about the alleged well-moneyed friend of Councilor Stehly.

See ya’ in the front pews on Sunday!

#13 Concerned Citizen on 02.15.19 at 10:33 am

Blasphemo – Listen to the CEO, who said outright that there has been no money raised for a new building, which is actually quite sad having been in the building. You should take a tour sometime to see how well off they are, and hopefully the water is working that day. Or ask any of the staff how much they make, when they could be making more flipping burgers at McDonalds than supporting people with very high physical and behavioral needs. Oh, and good idea about ride sharing for people who have sensory issues and behavioral issues and being in a cramped space with others with those same issues – what a wonderful idea.

And Guy from Wherever – this is a PUBLIC street. The parking lot is already going and neither of those have to do with the neighbor’s properties, which are on Lincoln. I would imagine they never even use Elmwood as it would provide nothing for them except on their walks with their dogs, which they could still do (even more safely).

The fact of the matter is, LifeScape is not a big, greedy organization that is doing this for the money. They lose money on all of the services they provide except for their Outpatient Services. But you don’t see them shutting down the homes where adults live. They keep on. I hope they do raise enough money to move out of a neighborhood that clearly doesn’t care for those children or adults that need the level of service they provide. And I hope the neighbors contribute since they seem to hate LifeScape so much. I hoe Janet Brekke keeps her word that she will give LifeScape money for the location. And I hope they move by my neighborhood, because I would be honored to have them there.

#14 Blasphemo on 02.15.19 at 11:19 am

THANK YOU Mr. Guy from Guernsey. I didn’t have time to dig for the compensation lady McFarland got, but I knew based on her lifestyle it was extremely lucrative (for a “struggling nonprofit”!) by local standards. Furthermore, your theological smackdown of the self-righteous NAN is SPOT ON.

#15 l3wis on 02.15.19 at 1:27 pm

What if someone is NOT a Christian, or even a believer? What if they don’t care about the mission of Lifescape, what if they just don’t care about helping disabled people? Does that make them a bad person? I don’t think so. Maybe they don’t have an opinion either way. And as for Lifescape themselves, maybe the reason they don’t have any capital endowments is because they are getting sued on a regular basis. I know many people who have filed complaints and have sued them. Making out Lifescape to be some kind of Angel seems like a stretch to me.

I guess I would have supported the vacation if Lifescape would have shown what there plan was to drop off kids with the vacation vs. what it would be without it. They had no evidence that it would be safer. I would think just having the parking lot as a staging area for busses would be helpful, but it just seemed to me this was about employee parking and not really the safety of the children.

And lastly, it was about time the council voted to stop this constant tearing up established neighborhoods. I could care less who was living there or what they are worth, this is about maintaining our central neighborhoods as neighborhoods, not some pie our Non-Profits can constantly cut up.

#16 The Guy from Guernsey on 02.15.19 at 5:18 pm

“The parking lot is going …”

LOL. Ah, yes. We are aware. Must have been a Lifescape talking point. Oddly similar to the omninous threatening proclamation from my city councilor, in the lead up to the vote earlier this week.

[“The parking lot, whether this vacation is approved or not, is going to go in. That’s a fact … It’s already a done deal.”, Councilor Rick Kiley, quote courtesy of A-L Media article].

Those words aren’t really a subtle, smooth deal closer. Very ham fisted. Those words project an organizational arrogance and belie the humble human service role which is served by Lifescape.

As an organization, Lifescape – Greedy ? No. Arrogant. Presumptuous. Yes.

#17 Jannelle Cain on 02.17.19 at 1:46 pm

WOW!- Do you people have a lot of soap boxes you are standing on about a neighborhood you don’t live in or care less about. I am ONE OF THE THREE HOMEOWNERS AND I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW WHICH OF US IS RICH…NONE OF US ARE! So many things in these comments are so lacking the REAL information I personally worked 317 days on just to try to save my home value and quiet and peaceful enjoyment of my own home and back yard! I have that right. I fight to make my mortgage payment every month, and when I am 81 and retired I hope I can winter where it is warmer for my health! No ONE HERE IS RICH by any means. That would be the neighborhood on the NORTH side of the VA as you can tell from the difference in homes!!!

And for the record-NAN- Good Christian you are- Practice what you preach. If you are a good Christian you know it is not your right or obligation to judge anyone else. Thus your uncalled for and disgusting rant to Councilwoman Stehly.. You need to formally and publicly apologize to her as an elected AT Large Councilwoman standing up for a neighborhood that our own Councilperson would not stand up for.

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