City of Sioux Falls should be able to force Eastern-Ellis RR to cleanup tracks

For several years the Pettigrew Heights and All Saints Neighborhoods have been volunteering their time to clean up the tracks owned by Eastern-Ellis RR that run directly through their neighborhoods. While the RR does provide a dump car and some employees, volunteers do most of the work. They walk through very tall grass that they won’t mow to pick up all kinds of junk including hazardous materials and needles.

This is something neighborhood associations should NOT have to be responsible for. Having BBQs, community gardens, neighborhood watch meetings, tree planting events, etc. are great examples of the associations getting together to better their neighborhoods. Cleaning up hazardous waste for an inept RR company SHOULD NOT be their job.

I have heard for several years that the city has been unsuccessful in getting them to clean up their property.

They claim it is a Federal issue because the RR’s are regulated by the Feds and are on Federal easement land. I have often felt this was a line of bull and a city should have local control over code enforcement issues, especially when it comes to cleaning up property and mowing.

I checked with Dusty Johnson to see ‘who’ is responsible for enforcement. His staff quickly researched the issue within a week and had this response;

I had Andrew Rasmussen dig into this a little bit and here’s what he found out:

• In conversations with both the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the SD Department of Transportation (SDDOT), it was made clear the jurisdiction lies with the City of Sioux Falls.

• Both the FRA and SDDOT explained they are unable to enforce a local code or ordinance, particularly when it involves a private company.

In other words, the City’s Code Enforcement office ‘CAN’ enforce that Eastern Ellis cleanup their own mess.

I would like to thank Dusty and his staff for the quick response. 


#1 Ljl on 07.12.19 at 8:37 pm

Local jurisdictions have no authority over federal property. It’s that cut and dry. They just gave you the quickest BS answer. I asked about another issue last year involving the R&R and the mayors staff was able to show how all ordinances are written to exempt RR and other gov properties.

#2 Long Overdue on 07.12.19 at 10:19 pm

So, let’s see how long it takes Sweetman Construction Company to comply.

#3 D@ily Spin on 07.13.19 at 8:50 am

Code enforcement is weak because ordinances are poorly written. They’re easy to overcome. There’s nothing relevant concerning Railroad ROW. There’s no appeals into court per the judicial ordinance.

#4 Arc climber on 07.13.19 at 12:04 pm

Maybe for $27 million.

#5 l3wis on 07.13.19 at 2:20 pm

LJL, I have suggested the city hires a contractor to clean it up and mow (after fair warning) and send EERR a bill.