Who wouldn’t want to live here?

As the recession goes into full swing Sioux Falls will probably see an influx of outsiders coming here looking for jobs because of a still considerably low unemployment rate – BUT reports like this only encourage that influx. Is growth a bad thing? No way, we don’t want to end up like Sioux City, but I always tell people our model of growth represents Walmart more then it does Costco. A few years ago I read an article comparing the two big box stores and what a world of difference. Walmart grew fast, had a 50% turnaround a year and their average employee made $19,000 a year. Costco had slow, calculated growth, had a 1% turnaround a year and it’s average employee made $40,000 a year. I’m afraid Sioux Falls is turning into a Walmart;

Sioux Falls is among the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the nation and one of only two metro areas in the Midwest to make the top 50, according to a report being released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.


From July 1, 2007, to July 1, 2008, the metro area grew by almost 6,000, to an estimated population of 232,930 people. The metro area includes Minnehaha, Lincoln, Turner and McCook counties.


The area ranked 19th in the nation for rapid population gains, with a growth rate of 2.6 percent. It ranked 36th the previous year.

This fast growth concerns me especially when we are over $80 million behind on infrastructure, almost $300 million in bond debt and several neighborhoods in the central part of the city are falling apart (not just Pettigrew Heights). But of course, Munson paints a rosy picture;

Sioux Falls Mayor Dave Munson said the area has much to offer: low crime, low cost of living and low taxation.

This statement is misleading. Transportation and food costs are actually higher in South Dakota and cost of living is comparable to Omaha and Kansas City. As for low taxation, this is true, for upper middle class and the wealthy because of regressive taxes on food and utilities which hurt the working class, the majority of people in our city.

Sioux Falls has been fortunate because the growth has been steady and stable, making it easier to plan and keep up with the challenges.

It has been steady, but like I said above, I question how stable when you are not keeping up with infrastructure you risk splitting the town into different sectors of the haves and have nots. At the council meeting on Monday I noticed that the zoning commission and council approved a 433 residential single family lot development. I didn’t catch the area, but I can guarantee some corn field is getting dug up to build more crackerjack box houses. The next mayor and council need to to take a 40/60 approach to developement and growth over the next four years. Budgeting and focusing 60% of funds into infrastructure and neighborhood rehabilitation and 40% on new growth so we can catch up and still not jeapordize new growth.

“We can get out ahead of development and make sure we have the infrastructure in place,” he said.

But we don’t and that’s why I am concerned.

17 Thoughts on “‘Growth’ isn’t always a positive thing

  1. Ghost of Dude on March 19, 2009 at 6:38 am said:

    I don’t see how people keep moving to the west side of SF. There’s nothing there but houses, cornfields, reclaimed wetlands, and powerlines. No trees, no topography, no variety.

  2. l3wis on March 19, 2009 at 7:05 am said:

    Like I said, if this kind of growth keeps up we are going to become a donut.

  3. Costner on March 19, 2009 at 7:43 am said:

    The growth on the west side has slowed quite a bit in comparison to the south and southeast, but part of the reason homes keep being built there is because the average lot price is so low.

    Say what you will about topography, but flat land (or the ocassional walkout lot) is pretty cheap. Ronning and a few of the other developers are selling lots for $25-40k. A lot in Southern Sioux Falls can run $50-60k or more, so it is all relative.

    Not everyone can afford the rolling hills full of trees, and by the time a development is packed full of houses all the uniqueness of an area is flushed down the toilet anyway. Pretty much all modern growth is leading to suburbia – I don’t see many options for people not willing to spend at least $300k on a home.

  4. l3wis on March 19, 2009 at 7:56 am said:

    There are many beautiful homes in central and proper Sioux Falls for $120-$150,000. They are smaller and older but have great yards, big trees and are very homey. I often suggest to my friends that are looking to buy houses in that area. The money you save on the purchase price you can put into upgrades, etc, and still come out ahead.

  5. Costner on March 19, 2009 at 8:25 am said:

    Well there are pros and cons. Obviously you can’t buy a new home for $150k and get the character you can in an old one, but in most cases the old homes are on very small lots with non-existant back yards, so that is a factor.

    There is also the issue of energy efficiency as quite a few older homes have inadequate insulation (if they have insulation at all), poor windows, and aging heating and cooling systems so the cost of ownership could actually be higher.

    Older homes may not have garages or if they do it might be far too small for two vehicles whereas most new homes have at least two if not three stalls.

    Of course older homes will almost always have established landscaping and trees – newer homes have to wait 20 years or more to get that benefit.

    The biggest issue I have found with older homes is that those in the nicer neighborhoods (think McKennan Park etc) are priced disproportionately against newer homes. In other areas you find well maintained homes next to homes where they simply have been left to crumble or turned into multi-family rentals.

    Obviously every person has their opinion, but I think if people could get the old character and charm in a new house they would most likley go that direction, and all things being equal people are still more willing to buy a new starter home than an old home in the same price range.

    Needless to say fighting urban sprawl is a tad difficult.

  6. Ghost of Dude on March 19, 2009 at 8:50 am said:

    most cases the old homes are on very small lots with non-existant back yards, so that is a factor.

    We have these things called parks, and most older neighborhoods are near one.

    er homes may not have garages or if they do it might be far too small for two vehicles whereas most new homes have at least two if not three stalls.

    Yep. Nothing like a whole street of three-car garages with attached houses.

  7. l3wis on March 19, 2009 at 9:04 am said:

    My home is 119 years old. I have a nice garage, tool shed, big fenced in backyard and I am 2 blocks from the bike trail, 10 blocks from McKennan park and one block from a liquor store. I am very content.

  8. Costner on March 19, 2009 at 9:09 am said:

    Say what you will but multi-vehicle homes are typical in the modern world. Back when Ward Cleaver was the only one working and the wife stayed at home to bake cookies while the kids rode their bikes to and from school or their part time job at the grocery store, one car was ok.

    These days both parents work, and every kid over 14 has his or her own car. A triple car garage isn’t really a huge deal. Those who live in older home park on the street much more often which is why navigating the older parts of town can be a challenge when two cars happen to meet in a residential street. I won’t even get into the whole snow plow issue with street parking.

    As to parks – thats all find and dandy, but sometimes people just want to hang out at home. If you don’t care about your lot size then you might as well buy a condo or a townhouse.

    It is all about priorities. In a perfect world I’d have a new house with the charm and character of an old one. I’d have the garage in the back alley and a porch out front, but I’d still have all the modern building materials and more than 10 feet between my house and my neighbor.

  9. Ghost of Dude on March 19, 2009 at 11:05 am said:

    Here’s one way to fight suburban sprawl: get rid of cul-de-sacs. Talk about a waste of space. If you look at newer neighborhoods, the streets all wind around and dead-end at random places. One thing the older parts of town has are streets laid out in a grid. That way, there’s more than one route to every destination and there isn’t any wasted space between developments.

  10. I agree.

  11. Costner on March 19, 2009 at 12:44 pm said:

    Cul-de-sacs serve a purpose however. They decrease traffic and allow for bigger back yards (for those lucky enough to afford the lots that is).

    How do you define what is a “waste of space” anyway? Is a large back yard a waste? Is a lot over a specific size a waste? The fact is land isn’t cheap, and if developers and homeowners are willing to fork over the extra cash to have a little privacy then who are we to tell them they shouldn’t be able to.

    Laying out streets in a grid is more efficient as far as space goes, but frankly it is a tad boring and increases traffic flow along with speeds. For those with small children, I can see a huge benefit to a cul-de-sac. Dead-end streets, u shaped streets, and cul-de-sacs all serve to isolate small areas and keep neighborhoods quieter due to decreased traffic.

    I’ve never lived on one myself, but I do imagine parking could be an issue if someone ever has a gathering since typically the end of a cul-de-sac is pretty much all driveways with very little extra curb. I also don’t know about efficiency of the road – is there actually less road frontage per home? As you may know, part of our lovely tax structure is built around cost per foot of road frontage. When your lot is shaped like a pie, I would assume the curb is shorter, which saves taxes (albeit a very small amount).

    I’ll admit – I kind like em’.

  12. Ghost of Dude on March 19, 2009 at 2:03 pm said:

    Trust me, I know about road frontage – I live on a corner lot.
    The wasted space isn’t the lawns, but the spaces between developments. Look at the picture attached to the post. Between the developments is a lot of wasted land not well suited for building anything. It’s just dead space, requiring more expansion to the horizon for additional development in the future. You can’t tell me that’s an efficient use of land – most of which appears to be arable.

  13. Plaintiff Guy on March 19, 2009 at 7:05 pm said:

    What some should realize is that once the recession hits here, it will be very unlike metro areas (3 to 5 years) and last 10 years. Enjoy, the real hardship is forthcoming. Call center jobs and Hutchinson are gone. Next will be Morrells (or the new name). Ag is temporary. Ethanol is non-solvent. Pipelines or the new refinery (Elk Point), possibly. Backyard gardens and fruit on street corners is the harvest we can live on. We are us (as in U.S.). We’ve endured when everyone else fails. Family and solidarity will fund our survival.

  14. Costner on March 20, 2009 at 6:38 am said:

    Trust me, I know about road frontage – I live on a corner lot.

    Then you also know you are only assessed on one side of your corner lot. I forget the specifics, but I think it is the side your front door faces.

    Look at the picture attached to the post. Between the developments is a lot of wasted land not well suited for building anything. It’s just dead space

    What you call wasted I call green space. Those areas make a residential neighborhood better by preventing houses from being jammed directly next to one another in straight lines.

    I can’t speak about the specific image above, but it appears some of those aresa are lower draining planes, so building there wouldn’t be possible anyway. A few of the areas between developments also look like they could be parks.

    Green spaces also allow wildlife to not be forced out of the city, and having green spaces with trees and other planet material acts as a natural drainage and retention area for rainfall runoff and flood control as well as helping to scrub the air.

    So I guess it all comes down to what you deem effecient. If you really want to get picky and make the most use out of every squre foot, we all need to be living in highrise buildings, but this is South Dakota not New York, so a little expansion won’t hurt us.

    I’d gladly pay a litlte more to have a lot that isn’t surrounded on all sides by more houses. The only legitimate negative I can find to the scenrio depicted in the picture would be the potential of longer response times for law enforcement and emergency personnel due to the myriad of odd corners and dead ends.

  15. l3wis on March 20, 2009 at 6:53 am said:

    I live on a north/south street that has dead ends on both sides, it sucks.

  16. l3wis on March 20, 2009 at 6:53 am said:

    and it doesn’t lower traffic flow one bit.

  17. Costner on March 20, 2009 at 8:24 am said:

    I guess I’m not undersatnding. You live on a street that has adjoining streets that dead end, but you don’t live on those streets?

    Then it makes sense you wouldn’t notice a decrease in traffic since you don’t live on the dead-end part of the street… or I am just misunderstanding.

    The thing is, traffic on a street that ends in a cul-de-sac will always be lower because other than people who make a wrong turn, the only people driving up that road are those who live there. There is no through traffic, so that keeps noise down, slows down traffic, and even makes it more safe for kids who tend to ride bikes and/or play in the street (and we all know we did that when we were kids regardless of whether it was safe or not).

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