Entries Tagged 'Curt Soehl' ↓

Sioux Falls City Council has a leadership problem

Patrick Lalley of Siouxfallslive.com wrote an interesting article about how the city council doesn’t have any staff advocates, I’m not sure that is the problem;

The council has some research and legislative assistance. They may need more of an ombudsperson who advocates on their behalf.

The city council has three full-time clerks, an operations manager and and legislative person, I am not sure they need more (I have even suggested they cut back to 2 clerks and an operations person).

The problem is council vice-chair Jensen and chair Soehl who were both re-elected by their peers last year to the same positions. Their main responsibility is to be the connection between the mayor’s office and the council, not only negotiating with the administration but informing the rest of the council what is in the pipeline.

In fact we still have gotten NO reason why Shana Nelson left as Audit Manager (she was appointed in a public meeting) and joined the administration as a Housing Compliance Manager (which garnered her a $7,000 raise).

Not only has council leadership failed the council when it comes to transparency but they have failed the constituents also.

I would suggest the rest of the city council hold a special election and appoint Starr as chair and Merkouris as vice-chair and get some adults in those seats.

$200 a day rent for Downtown Sioux Falls Loft Apartment

Yes, that is the daily rent, for the month it will cost you $5,950. I purchased my home 20 years ago, before I bought the house the rent I paid for a nice 1-bedroom behind U-Haul in Pettigrew Heights was $350 a month which included gas and garbage service. For $5,950 a month you could pay a mortgage on a 1 million dollar home. You can rent a decent hotel room in Sioux Falls for about $100 a night. Heck even Hotel Phillips only 2 blocks from this loft charges between $140-$220 a night. An VRBO or Air BNB is even cheaper. This 3 bedroom short term rental in McKennan Park will run you about $162 a night. Even if you had 3 people renting the loft, they would still have to pay $2,000 a month in rent. In fact what you would pay for rent in a year for this place ($70K+) was more then the original purchase price of my home.

Normally I wouldn’t give two rips about what a wealthy property owner/developer in DTSF charges for rent, I’m a free market person and if they can get that kind of ‘rent’ money, good for you. Where I take issue is that this building received a facade easement grant* (basically the city gives private developers money to fix up their historical facades with little oversight). I asked a councilor recently if the half-Inch faux brick that they glued on the front of Lucky’s facade was considered historic? Faux brick has been a trend lately, but I still think it looks fake. I thought one of the requirements of historic restoration was for it to be actually historic, you know, like the fiberglass bulstrades on the Pavilion’s new roof.

Besides the atrocious monthly rent, this really doesn’t make the city look very good when they are handing out TIFs for condo parking ramps and facade grants DTSF but on the other hand are promoting(?) affordable and accessible housing.

*The facade easement program was mysteriously and suddenly re-instated by the urging of Central District Councilor Curt Soehl. No surprise the 1st recipients for the grants were the former campaign treasurer for Soehl (for the 9th and Grange coffee shop that he is restoring) and the investment group that owns the Lucky’s loft who has given thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Mayor TenHaken and his various supported candidates. The program is nothing but a pay to play payback to these campaign contributors. The program was originally ended because there really is NO need for taxpayers to be propping up these private developers.

The city really needs to get out of the wealthy developer welfare program business and start incentivizing affordable housing DTSF with programs that help build housing density while focusing on the individual property and small rental owners. Instead the city’s solution is to build slab on grade tract homes in a cornfield in Southern Brandon. Even a chicken playing tic-tac-toe is smarter than that.

UPDATE: In 2017 Rapid City used a very small TIF to support affordable housing (H/T Mike Zitterich). It was 5 years ago, but for a $26,500 TIF the developer was able to build 5 Town Homes – the cheapest with the price tag of $109K. Even with inflationary adjustments, that same place would only be about $130-150K today. It was built on a blighted empty lot.

We could legally do this in the core of the city, and we could do it for multiple properties.

Here is a video of the project;

Sioux Falls City Council considering banning short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods

Imagine my surprise when I read this article this morning;

Members of the Sioux Falls City Council have begun conversations with the city attorney’s office about drafting an ordinance that could include prohibiting any new listing in residential-zoned neighborhoods. And that would all but eliminate the use of Airbnb and VRBO in Sioux Falls, where nearly every property listed on those sites now is located.

Right now, short-term rentals are subject to few regulations. State statute requires that rentals where occupants stay for fewer than 28 nights at a time remit sales tax. The city of Sioux Falls does not regulate short-term rentals. And at the city level, there’s almost no oversight from municipal government.

For a time, under Mayor Mike Huether, the city planning office held that Airbnb-listed properties fell under the Sioux Falls bed and breakfast ordinances, which required residential properties to meet minimum parking standards. But that interpretation on short-term rentals did not come with any enforcement. And since Mayor Paul TenHaken’s administration took over, the city has shifted to a position that existing ordinances are silent on short-term rentals listed on online platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, Furnished Finder and Guestly.

I find how this is evolving to be interesting considering former city councilor Erickson has a pretty good family business with short-term rentals and was rumored to convince former Mayor Huether to lift the restrictions on them, which he did, I believe through executive order or simply instructing the health department to NOT inspect them anymore.

Rumors aside, I do agree Schmidt;

Rather than overhauling the city’s rental ordinances, Sioux Falls Experience Director Teri Schmidt said the council could enact changes that level the playing field between short-term rentals and the traditional lodging industry.

Schmidt’s convention and visitors bureau organization is funded by a $2 fee paid by hotel and motel guests visiting the city, which is used to lure potential tourists to the area by marketing Sioux Falls attractions.

Those efforts drive demand for lodging in the city, and Schmidt says that includes short-term rentals. But the short-term rentals are not subject to the $2 fee, therefore not directly contributing to Sioux Falls’ tourism industry, she said.

“There is no doubt that with the increase in the number of Airbnbs in South Dakota, hotels are losing that business. Otherwise, they’d have stayed in a hotel,” Schmidt said. “They need to pay their fair share into the (business improvement district).”

Soehl said a formal proposal likely won’t come forward until spring.

Not only should the short term rentals pay a BID tax, they should also be registered with the city as short-term rentals AND be subject to at least ONE surprise inspection per year by the health department.

I have used VRBO in the past and there is a screening process, that is actually way more restrictive than using a hotel. I think there are many misconceptions about who uses VRBOs. Users are NOT renting a home in Sioux Falls to party like it’s 1999. If the city council tries to do this, there will be backlash.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Soehl sends out text to vote NO on Slaughterhouse ordinance

I still think this is too little too late and most voters have had their mind made up for months. But you also have to question a sitting councilor(s) sharing his opinion on a ballot measure. I remember when that backfired when councilors and the sitting mayor were against the Drake Springs outdoor pool vote.

I also laugh when people talk about WF not smelling. Oh, it will smell. I grew up on a hog farm. Hogs stink. Ironically though, we will never know if WF smells or not, since Smithfield’s stink will always be waffling in the air above and beyond anything coming from WF.

Wholestone, Video Lottery, Ticket fees and Data Harvesting

There has been a lot of talk about the upcoming election. One of the topics is Mayor TenHaken’s participation in the Anti IM 27 campaign and if it is it is legal. I have been warning people for years that PTH’s former job was being a political partisan marketing hack, and little has changed. He continues to ignore the ethics of being a politician while setting precedents when unchallenged. Paul not only is betting the farm on his input to the opponents but I also think he is doing this to harvest statewide voter data for an eventual run for Governor or Senator. It makes me laugh when Paul says he hates politics and doesn’t like being a politician, but he has done it his entire professional life and now is using PAC money from a PAC he runs to make a political stance. We will see how this plays out. I think the race is in a dead heat, but if Paul is successful in getting his SF mayoral supporters in line with his feelings on MJ he will set another precedent right in front of our faces. Even if IM 27 passes and foils his ambitions (he will still have secured the voter data), I still encourage members of the IM 27 campaign to file ethics violations against him for his political stunt as a sitting (lying) mayor.

Even if the Wholestone Slaughterhouse ordinance fails or passes (I think it will get between 70-80%) it will ultimately be decided in a court of law and NOT by voters. Why is this? For the same reason I voted NO. It is a poorly written measure that doesn’t address property rights and current zoning. Liking the concept or not doesn’t matter here, it is about law and city ordinances, and since the city council didn’t have the courage to do something about this in January here we are. Thousands of disenfranchised voters and a very nervous judge.

Speaking of the ordinance, council chair, Curt Soehl, decided it was a good idea to write a letter to the editor in support of the NO vote. I was told the entire council was advised to publicly keep quiet about the ordinance until after the election, Soehl obviously ignored them. Funny how this guy likes to tell councilors how to conduct themselves during meetings but does whatever he wants to on the side. Not just an authoritarian, but a hypocrite.

The Events Center Campus is a dump and always will be, that isn’t coming from me, that is straight from councilors yesterday at the informational meeting;

Neitzert called the proposal to spend more at the events center complex a “sunk-cost fallacy,” and unless the plan includes overhauling the entire neighborhood and creating a walkable road network, he doesn’t anticipate much success.

“We’ve been proven wrong twice,” he said. “It’s just a tough area. It just is.”

Maybe Greg learned something from his Bunker Ramp vote. The 3rd time isn’t always a charm.

Speaking of Greg, last night with the support of the mayor at the council meeting found ways to limit video lottery at a handful of casinos but did argue that it will take some stronger ordinance changes in the near future to affect change. I can guarantee lobbyists for the VL industry in SD are already nagging lawmakers to make changes to state law so they can have these mega casinos that hand out free beer. Like Wholestone, this will also be decided by a court, and also like Wholestone the City Council acted too little and too late. The city council should have been working on this for the past two decades.

A few weeks ago I addressed the city council about having a $5 dollar bond payment ticket fee at the Denty to help pay down the mortgage. This week they turned around and gave a ticket fee to the general fund of the Sports Authority for ‘Marketing’ with NO oversight. Of course this is the same city council that continues to subsidize the operations of the Pavilion while spending millions on building repairs while the Pavilion sits on a $5 million dollar savings fund. Yet some how the city may have to scrounge the money together for an additional warming shelter this winter.

The screenshot below is from the last Audit Committee meeting Councilor Jensen chaired. It was so nice of the taxpayers of Sioux Falls to fund City of Sioux Falls logo wear for councilors (instead of a simple $10 lapel nametag magnet) so that when they actually show up to a live streamed public meeting they could be promoting their Dr. Oz and Alex Jones vitamins. #justrolledoutofbed

Is the revamped Facade Easement program just political payback?

I saw this coming a mile away.

When the program got reinstated earlier this year I knew what was up. Councilor Soehl pushed for reinstating the program while his campaign’s treasurer was restoring a building in Pettigrew Heights. Look who got a grant, item #6, sub-items #4-5;

Conditional Façade Grant Agreement for building commonly known as 100 South Grange Avenue, Boulevard Properties, LLC, $95K

This is for the proposed coffee shop at 9th and Grange that already got special zoning and street parking. This is a massive conflict of interest on Soehl’s part and he should be charged with an ethical violation. It is the epitome of quid pro quo.

And it seems the mayor’s very special campaign donors are getting some facade monies;

Conditional Façade Grant Agreement for Lucky’s at 224-226 S Phillips Avenue, Blackstreet Partners, LLC, $25K

This of course is part of a conglomerate of investment and development partners who have given thousands of dollars to Mayor TenHaken’s campaign and pro-Haken candidates.

Gee? I wonder why the facade grant was reinstated? Ethics be damned!

Sioux Falls City Councilor Selberg should recuse himself from Bunker Ramp negotiations

During the informational this afternoon the council discussed what next to do with the Bunker Ramp;

A public parking ramp that took nearly a decade and more than $20 million to build in downtown Sioux Falls could be sold to a private developer.

During a Tuesday informational meeting at Carnegie Town Hall, city councilors urged Mayor Paul TenHaken’s administration to consider all options when picking a new partner to build at the Mall Avenue and 10th Street site.

And that includes selling the entirety of the seven-story ramp that opened in July 2020 and is equipped to handle up to eight additional stories. The site has gone undeveloped since a mixed-use parking ramp project fell apart in 2019.

I do agree with councilors that they should take the best deal and I also agree with councilor Soehl that we need to use a 3rd party to vet the investors properly. I am also partially in agreement with what councilor Merkouris said;

Rich Merkouris said he’s apprehensive about giving any tax breaks to the eventual buyer unless they use the space to add residential stock downtown.

“For me personally, I would struggle incentivizing anything outside of housing unless it was a part of the bigger package,” he said.

I would go a step further and say there should be NO incentives. Anyone who takes over this property is being given a site in a plum location with an opportunity to do well. The taxpayers have already incentivized this project, there is absolutely NO reason to hand out more candy. Find an honest free market developer who has a solid plan to make it successful, then you don’t need to worry about tax incentives. It was also pointed out it is in an opportunity zone which means there will be some incentives to build there without city tax payers help.

But what what really pissed me off was having councilor Selberg sit in on meetings and negotiations for future use. NO councilor that helped approve this pile of sh!t should be involved. It should either be handed over to a new councilor or Pat Starr who opposed this. It would be like hiring the guy who rear ended your car to fix it. Any councilor who approved this should not be in closed door meetings trying to cover up their mistakes. We need councilors with a clear conscience to negotiate this deal with a focus on hyper transparency.

These knuckleheads learn very little from past mistakes.

Mayor TenHaken says FREE youth ridership is part of Sioux Falls ONE initiative

I guess I was a little surprised to hear that the program was a part of Sioux Falls ONE, an initiative that I still have trouble understanding its mission. This program came about because of years of advocacy from former transit board members, a successful program in Rapid City and the work of former school board President Cynthia Mickelson and councilor Curt Soehl. While I do appreciate the presser and the celebration of a wonderful program it kind of sounds like someone is spiking the football after the rest of the team has already hit the locker room.

Washington Pavilion, Transparency and FREE youth bus rides

During the Informational meeting yesterday I spoke about the Pavilion’s slow growth in concert revenue and memberships as well as charging to attend regional art shows. (FF: 49:20) Below is a graphic of the current annual report.

During the city council regular meeting I talked about transparency in government (FF: 7:00) and the FREE youth bus rides (FF: 15:10). For clarification, several advocacy groups have been pushing for this for over a decade. Last Fall a couple people from those groups reached out to me to blog about it. I then reached out to former SF School board president Cynthia Mickelson who currently still serves on the board. She thought it was a good idea since the school district has been struggling with their own bus system and she reached out to councilor Curt Soehl and they have been working diligently to get it pushed through the transit board. A big thank you to both of them for their diligence.

We don’t need no stinking audits

The Sioux Falls 2022 City Election is getting interesting. Why has there been so much anger by certain members when legitimate questions are asked? Why is there so much anger when any audits are talked about? Ask your candidates how they stand and what they might want to hide.