Nelsons get green light at city council, geese to get red light

By Carol Walker

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Requests for variances, conditional use permits, zoning changes—the city council had them all on their list of action items last Tuesday at their regular meeting. Some of the items required substantial discussion before the vote was taken to approve.

Brian and Richard Nelson of Nelson’s Oil and Gas, Inc., requested a zone change from agriculture to commercial. The same request was first heard by Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) at its May 7 meeting when it determined the most restrictive commercial zone for this use would be Commercial Zone 1.

The intended use for this land located on Highway 16/385 just east of the China Gulch Road is to build a structure that would be used as a showroom, office, workshop and storage. According to the owners there would be no bulk storage tanks on the property; only small, empty residential size tanks. There would also be two, and occasionally three, service trucks parked at the rear of the building. The property across the highway is currently zoned Highway Service and Low Density Residential while all other sides of the property are agricultural.

Ron and Tara Weir, owners of the property to the north, were at the hearing expressing their concern for the new use of the land.

“We don’t have disagreements with Nelson’s. They have a business to run. Our intention is to retire in 10 years, and moving to that property has been a lifelong dream. We just don’t want to see something thrown together,” said Ron Weir.

In its application the Nelson’s said it will be a one-story metal building with three feet of stone along the bottom of all sides. The owners are willing to plant trees and bushes to buffer the visual impact for neighbors

“A year ago we backed off asking for big storage tanks on the site. But this building, you won’t be able to tell if it is a dental office or any other business,” said Richard Nelson.

Another individual asked if an environmental study had been done on this proposed use of the land. Nelson said the Department of Natural Resources has no requirements on this type of structure. There will be one tank used to fill smaller tanks.

“The small tanks are empty and there will be trucks there. This gas can’t pollute. With the transfer from tank to tank, codes will be followed,” said Nelson.

Dixie Kirk, a neighbor across the highway, wondered about the safety aspect of filling propane bottles near her business, Spring Creek Inn. Nelson said it is no different from convenience stores that have the bottles. He added that there are about 10 places that sell these in the Hill City area.

“I am concerned about the visual aspect, the extra traffic and guests don’t want to look at propane tanks. It’s unsafe. Then there is the lighting going into people’s rooms,” said Kirk.

“We will have some lighting on the perimeter. We don’t need it lit up strong…..the profile of the building will be low and aesthetically pleasing. It will not be loud; it’s not smelly. It can be an unobtrusive building,” said Nelson.

The council voted unanimously to approve the zoning change.

Rebecca Leier asked for a variance to not be required to pave the four required parking spaces at the kayak and bicycle rental on Newton Avenue across from Tracy Park. Since the property is in the flood plain, she believes gravel and soil are better for absorption of rain water.

“So many places in town are not paved. I don’t understand why the city is pushing to have that parking area paved?” asked Leir.

P&Z voted four to one to not approve the variance and require paving. She said they want it paved because of the run-off into the storm drains. Councilman Jim Peterson commented that paving is not friendly to storm water run-off.

Insideout received a variance so as not to be required to pave its parking spots, but its parking is right by the stream. A paved surface in that location could allow a lot of oil and grit to be sloughed off into the water.

The school paved its lot due to requirements connected with the construction of the new gymnasium. Brett McMacken, city administrator said he remembered that 360 spaces were needed, some of which were provided by an agreement with the 1880 Train, and some from the parking lot.

Mary Skillingstad, owner of adjacent property, asked what the cost of paving four parking spaces and was told it would be at least $10,000, which she agreed is a big amount for a small business. Her only concern was that there would be enough parking for the bicycle business so customers do not have to park on the street. She said when there is not enough parking at Tracy Park for those using the park and the Mickelson Trail people will often park on the street, particularly people in vehicles with horse trailers.

The council tossed around the idea of not paving but requiring at least eight gravel parking spots and a concrete apron to hold back gravel from running into the street. Peterson stressed that signage would be necessary, and councilwoman Kathy Skorzewski suggested using railroad ties to mark off the parking area. With those requirements, the council approved the variance by a vote of 3-1 with John Johnson voting against it.

McMacken offered an update on the Waterfowl Management Plan for Hill City, particularly referring to the rapidly increasing goose population at Major Lake, Minor Lake and the Visitor Information Center (VIC). One component in the ordinance would prohibit feeding the geese. There is evidence that it is happening at the VIC as geese are becoming more aggressive with people, according to McMacken.

“The population of geese is starting to balloon. There are two pairs at the VIC and there are 15 goslings,” said McMacken.

The city can partner with John Kanta at the Outdoor Campus in Rapid City under the Game, Fish and Parks license to deal specifically with the geese.

“John can get us started. He will offer training and help, but it is up to the city to manage it,” said McMacken.

McMacken, in talking with Kanta’s superior in Brookings, learned there are no known devices that show a real impact in reducing the goose population. However, there are ways to keep it under control. Oil can be put on the eggs in the nest that keep them from hatching. In addition, during a two-week window, the goslings can be euthanized and the meat donated to homeless shelters. The council authorized McMacken to draft an ordinance to consider at a future council meeting.

The city budgeted $80,000 this year to purchase a new truck for the city. Dennis Schrier, public works director, received three bids for the truck. The council authorized the purchase of the Dodge Ram 5500 Cab Chassis.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 11 at 5:30 p.m. at city hall.

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