Entries Tagged 'Planning Commission' ↓

Will there be a NEW Planning Director for the City of Sioux Falls?

I have been speculating for awhile who will take over as the new planning director. Last week I proposed Jeff Schmidt. (FYI, City Hall readers, I threw that out as a curve ball, hope you got some good laughs out of it).

I have noticed there have been quite a few terminations and ‘retirements’ over the past couple of months. Someone in the Attorney’s office recently got the boot from the man in the corner office (I’m still gathering more info on that one).

I think with all this reorganization (which is to be expected in a new administration) that the Planning Department will see some major changes.

I don’t think they are going to hire a new director from a promised ‘national search’. It would be almost impossible to bring in a new director from outside of Sioux Falls or the State, even with a stellar resume, they would lack historical knowledge of planning in SF and would have to do mountains of research on day one.

So what do I think will happen? This of course is pure speculation and NOT based on any information I received, but I think they will appoint a Deputy Planning director internally and COS Beck will be the overseer of the Department, essentially getting her cake and eating it to. I think with the high salary Beck is receiving and the enormous amount of power I heard TenHaken gave her to make decisions in his absence (which is quite a bit) that she will start putting a lot of these departments under her authority.

Would love to see those Executive Orders.

Like I said, pure speculation at this point, but the stars seem to be aligning.

Slab on Grade Baby!

In one of the more humorous moments during the Q & A portion of the Sioux Falls City Council informational meeting about drainage issues in Sioux Falls, the city official stated that the best way to avoid water in your basement when building a new home was to go ‘slab on grade’. In other words ‘NO BASEMENT’. That’s why these guys have engineering degrees I suppose, to give out riveting solutions to difficult problems.

Wednesday Tidbits; New Planning Director, Taxes, Drones & Ice Cream

PLANNING on . . . .?

So there has been some talk about who will replace Mike Cooper? First off, the rumor going around city officials is he was asked to retire a year before he planned on. I guess the only person to know would be Mike, oh and Erica, Paul and maybe TJ.

People are telling me that my prediction of Erica Beck being the new planning director is a little off and that she is perfectly happy being COS. And why not? She pretty much is running the city while the Deputy T.J. TypeOver is doing all of the Mayor’s dirty work.

An unusual name came up though, Jeff Schmidt, who suddenly disappeared after the joint jurisdiction debacle. The rumor going around is that he is preparing to take the reins. Talking to other city officials and councilors I get the same, “It’s a possibility.” But when I ask councilors if he could get confirmed, there seems to be some doubt.

I guess we will have to wait and see. Hopefully he will get a new office without urine stained walls.


Last night councilor Stehly with the support of councilors Brekke and Starr tried to defer repealing the drone ordinance, TWICE, and were shot down. Ultimately the entire council did repeal it (Soehl was AWOL). So why the deferral? Stehly said she attempted to contact the FAA but was unsuccessful because a majority of the agency is furloughed. She wanted them to testify or at least provide some information about who will be responsible for enforcing the Federal regulations, and thought it was a good idea to defer it a couple of weeks so we can hear from them. She was pretty much told by council chair Erickson that she should have done the research in advance. Other councilors just assumed with the city attorney that the SFPD would have to enforce the regs, but really no one knew.

And they wondered why Stehly wanted a deferral? They must have had axe throwing on their minds.


Last night when the topic of the property tax reduction came up, councilor Neitzert got very irate and said that the applicants met the criteria they were supposed to and that is why they got the reductions.


While I have NO doubt that is true (well, I do have some doubts), this isn’t about the applicants, this is about who granted the tax reductions, and it certainly wasn’t done with the blessing of the council. More to come on this.


I guess the only one to bid on taking over the Falls Overlook Cafe was Stensland Dairy. That was easy.

Sioux Falls City Council Agenda, Jan 2-3, 2019

City Council Informational, 4 PM • Wed/2

Updates on Audit Reports.

There is also a draft of changes to the functions in ordinance to the Audit Committee. I encourage you to read the red notes. There are some significant changes that I’m not sure are GOOD or BAD.

City Council Regular Meeting, 7 PM • Wed/2

Item #7, Approval of Contracts

While it is common practice to hire outside counsel for bonds, I find it a little strange that the city attorney’s office could NOT handle this. Why? The city is taking a loan from the state. Unlike other bonds, this doesn’t involve private investors on the open market. To put it in perspective, it’s like borrowing a five spot from your uncle. A government agency in the state borrowing money from the state. Why would we even want PRIVATE outside counsel involved? Weird.

Item #43, 1st Reading, License agreement for 5G network. Come and talk NOW because we will only get two SMALL opportunities to do so while the Feds and Big Communications run rough shot over us and the city rolls over like a dog for John Thune in all his majesty.

I feel like I’m downloading that cat video so much faster already.

One of the locations of the new cell technology will be by the Events Center. How much ‘business’ is being conducted while people are watching a concert? Funny how we always hear the argument for ‘Economic Development’ yet we both know this is about loading up selfies faster to Instagram. And we know what our mayor thinks about selfies.

Planning Commission Meeting, 6 PM • Thur/3

Consent Agenda, Item ‘C’ has the wrong designation on documents, which is further confusing because item ‘D’ for Sanford is missing documents on a site plan. I see the NEW version of SIRE is not working very well.

Regular Agenda Item ‘B’. Moving forward with the St. Francis House expansion in an established neighborhood.


Are Developers paying too much in Platting Fees? Absolutely NOT!

If anyone has been paying too much for NEW infrastructure and development, it has been the tax payers of Sioux Falls. When the 2nd Penny sales tax was raised to a full penny over a decade ago to fund infrastructure expansion, the promise was developers would put in 40-60% into that fund in platting fees. That hasn’t happened, not even close. In fact, taxpayers at one point were putting in over 10x more into that fund then the developers.

Well apparently some developers are now crying the platting fees are too much (about $20K per acre on vacant lots in undeveloped areas). Sioux Falls City Councilor Greg Neitzert talked about it in a recent post on his Facebook page. He seemed to be sympathizing with the developer because they used the tired old excuse that they pass those prices to the consumer of the new development. Well duh. The consumer is getting brand new sewer, water, and roads, why shouldn’t they pay the cost? How is charging me extra in sales taxes fair? What do I get out of it except higher taxes and water/sewer rates?

In about 50% of US cities with populations of 25K or more they charge the developer a 100% of the cost of new development infrastructure, so current users are not subsidizing new growth. This makes sense, because as I have often argued, new growth without a plan to pay for it, makes no sense. Slow growth that is properly funded is fiscally responsible to taxpayers. When developers don’t have enough workers to build their developments, that should tell us that maybe the ‘growth’ isn’t needed. Who are you building and expanding for?

I think we should eliminate platting fees all together and have developers instead pay for the entire cost of new infrastructure. If the NEW development is really truly needed, it will pay for itself. That’s just common sense.

Cooper’s retirement is no surprise, and neither will be his replacement

There has been plenty of public and private conversation about Mike’s retirement;

After a 32-year career with the city of Sioux Falls, Director of Planning and Development Services Mike Cooper Monday announced plans to retire from municipal government next spring.

Before the TenHaken was even elected, there were plenty of people saying Mike would retire in 2019. You can’t blame him, he put in his time. I also don’t think he was forced out. I think this was a planned process that Mike had full control of.

His retirement isn’t the grand mystery surrounding the announcement, this is;

The city will conduct a national talent search to fill the Cooper’s position as director of Planning and Development Services. The director is appointed by the mayor with advice and consent of the City Council.

Why waste the taxpayer’s money? I have said all along that former city planner and now COS, Beck, was going to replace Cooper. Maybe I am wrong, maybe she likes signing Paul’s executive documents and baby sitting TJ NelsOver, but I’m guessing someone who has spent a lifetime in planning and development and went to the same school Cooper did (Metli-Lloyds Planning Academy) is gearing up to take the job. The planning/community development re-org, the rah-rah sessions about TIFs and various other policy decisions Beck has been behind make it pretty clear who is ‘seeking’ that position.

Of course, the administration will put on a big show, but seriously, just spare us the smoke and mirrors, appoint Beck in April when Cooper leaves, and save us the drama.

Sioux Falls & Minnehaha County Joint Planning Commission Meeting

I guess they have been filming these for awhile.

November 26, 2018

Sioux Falls City Council Agenda Dec 3-5, 2018

All I can really say is that the first week of the last month of the year is going to be super busy for the Sioux Falls City Council.

One of the first things you will notice while perusing the council agenda is that SIRE after years of being horrible has finally been upgraded. My first reaction is that it really isn’t much different, in fact some things are worse.

• It looks as though the video is NOT working on my MAC but is on my I-Phone and PC.

• While some docs seem to appear in the upper right side when you click on agendas, like before, some don’t. You can look at the total agenda doc or PDF which is troublesome because you have to scroll through the whole document to see certain supporting docs. The city council’s doc alone is 741 pages. Dumb. They also changed the numbering system using more lettering as sub items.

Like most things in city government, it seems like things related to openness and customer service can be broken for years and once they do ‘fix’ it, it’s only worse.

Audit Committee Meeting • Monday, December 3, 2018 at 4 p.m.

Eide Bailly will be using their team from Fargo to conduct the city audit this year.

There will be a staffing update and how the hiring process is coming along for a new internal auditor.

Great Bear Audit determined that the GM signs checks to himself for payroll and reimbursement and had no written policy in place for the card purchasing program. Those items will be corrected. It amazes me that the city who heavily subsidizes Great Bear would leave such trust to one person, wait a minute. It doesn’t surprise me.

Here are some charts from the Financial Conditions Assessment; Notice the top five property tax payers in SF only make up a small percentage. Why? Because some of the biggest landowners of the city are the city itself, the school district and non-profits. There is also a per-capita city debt chart, which is extremely misleading, because this is ONLY current city debt. It doesn’t include Minnehaha County Debt, School District Debt or future sewer plant debt, which I believe would put us well over $10K per person. I found the city employee ratio chart encouraging, and one of the reasons I argued against the admin building. I think with more technology we will need less city employees and more of them can work from home.

Updates of Audits in Progress.

2018 Audit Plan. You will notice that many audits were either moved to 2019 or eliminated. This is troublesome.

2019 Audit Plan includes SMG and Ovations who run the Denty. Still haven’t heard why Terry left?

Informational Meeting • Tuesday, December 4, 2018 at 4 p.m.

Update on E-Bikes being allowed on the bike trail, which I think is fine.

City Council Employee Management. I found this line a little funny;

Internal Audit Manager, City Clerk, and City Council Operations Manager Compensation Need To Be Increased To Preserve Integrity Of Organizational Chart And Hierarchy.

In other words, if one of them gets a big raise, they all deserve one. I have often argued that pay isn’t the issue, it’s over staffing. I have suggested we eliminate our head city clerk and give that position to the Operations Manager and also eliminate the budget analyst and have the two assistant city clerks handle it together. Not sure if anyone noticed but before Greco took over as Head city clerk, the assistant city clerks used to answer Carnegie’s phone. Now when you call there, Greco answers. You would think a person we pay around $90K a year could have his assistants (two of them) answer the phone for Carnegie (We know they more than he does when it comes to ‘clerking’). Seems like someone is on a power trip.

Fiscal Committee Meeting • Tuesday, December 4, 2018 at 4:30 p.m.  (or after the Informational Meeting)

Update on City Grants and Awards.

Regular City Council Meeting • Tuesday, December 4, 2018 at 7 p.m.

Item #7 Approval of Contracts.

Apparently the city needs to hire an interior designer?

We also are doing a structural engineering study on ‘Entertainment Facilities’ they don’t say which ones? Does this have to do with the siding on the EC? Or does it have to do with the North side of the Pavilion’s rumored issues with the foundation?

Item#14-16, Falls Landing is transferring it’s liquor license to the ‘Village on the River’ group, effective January 7, 2018. Falls Landing then will request to go only beer and wine. While it isn’t uncommon for bars to sell their licenses to other bars, I find this transfer interesting. First off, the dates throughout all the docs are wrong, it should be 2019. Secondly, the address listed of the transfer to 140 East 10th will be a construction site for the next two years. Are they planning on having a full-service bar in the construction crane? Maybe sidewalk patio seating this summer while you can watch the construction in progress? I’m wondering why the city would allow this group to park a liquor license for two-years while it collects NO tax revenue? Is the holder getting special breaks because of the public/private partnership?

Item #35, 2nd Reading of Public Input ordinance. I expect some surprises on this one either before the meeting or during the meeting.

Item #38-40, 2nd Reading, Public Utility rate increases. This should be an interesting discussion. Wondering if anyone will bring up that our Pleasure Palaces are not paid off with user fees.

Planning Commission Meeting Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 6 p.m.

Item #3A – Rezone for a NEW Banquet on the West side of Sioux Falls. I was actually surprised this was in the ‘Consent agenda’. It would be nice to hear the details as to why this is needed in a town with so many great opportunities and low unemployment.

Item #6A, Looks Market Restaurant is asking for alcohol licenses.

What Happened to Jeff Schmidt in Planning?

Jeff used to be the public face of the Sioux Falls Planning department, but lately, especially after the joint jurisdiction fiasco, nobody has seen him. He no longer comments on the planning show or does presentations to the commission and city council. I do understand he still works for the city. He must have gotten ‘reorganized’.

Celebrate bails on School for Deaf project/land

I heard last night that Celebrate has decided to pull out on the deal, even though they were slated to go in front of the Planning Commission. I’m not sure why they decided this way, but a parishioner told me that Pastor Keith felt there was too much turmoil within the congregation over the deal.

I also heard it was a ‘complicated’ deal.

Not sure if it had anything to do with the weird rules the Board of Regents imposes with land leases or not?

The good news is that the land could eventually be used as a new Whittier, which I think would be a better use for the land.