Planning and zoning plans to fix issues and create uniformity

By Jeff Smith

On Jan. 8, a semi-truck comes through Hill City. Most likely it was one of many. A rule could soon be in place to prohibit use of unmuffled engine brakes.

The work the Hill City planning and zoning commission is doing is nearly directly tied to the ideas set forth in the comprehensive plan that was finalized in summer of 2017. Many ideas from the comprehensive plan have generated discussion with the planning and zoning commission and other groups.

Most ideas take time and thought in order to be executed correctly. More time is needed to work out some new ideas the planning and zoning commission has been thinking about.

The issues the commission addressed on Jan. 2 dealt with styles of architecture in Hill City, an ordinance for unmuffled engine compression brakes and clearly defining commercial zoning activity.

Changes will be made to the Title IX Section 602.2 of the zoning codes. A new ordinance will be created and reviewed by the commissioners.

The language used in the past has been labeled as too vague as it states that all commercial zone, commercial/residential zone and central business shall have wood, brick, or stone store fronts and have a western or turn of the century architectural style.

The ambiguity in the previous ordinance laid in the interpretation of western turn of the century architectural style.

Eight different types of architectural styles were accepted as what could be used in South Dakota and six different styles are to be eliminated as unusable architectural styles. The completed list of styles would be accepted for any new construction or exterior renovation.

“I think we’re on the right track. I think we’re following the intent of the comprehensive plan and broadening the ordinance. We’re still giving quite a bit of leeway to builders to do different things,” Dale Householder said,  chairman of the planning and zoning commission.

Dani Schade, development services coordinator, said that they are really tightening down the architectural styles to choose from.

This change will affect all of the commercial zoning in Hill City.

At a previous meeting it was stated that the main goal is to create more of a sense of historical uniqueness in Hill City through architecture.

Some of the buildings that were newly built might have had a different look if this code was in place beforehand.

Brett McMacken, city administrator, said they don’t fit into a theme or style that will be spelled out in the updated code.

There was a discussion about the difference between western false front and old west style. Western false front is more of a type of mining building and old western might be found in movies and has more western flair.

Householder said that the two are synonymous and are from around the same time period.

The Jon Crane Gallery building is more of a western false front building and old west style might be more like Desperados.

Silverton, Colo. has a zoning code similar to what Hill City wants to create although it encourages the architectural styles for buildings and not mandate them.

Householder questioned why they would have it if it was just a suggestion. He thought that it would be a good idea to make it required for commercial properties.

The point of the new regulation was to give the commissioners a better framework to understand what would be needed for businesses to meet the code.

“You have to make sure you are ok with applying it in the real world,” said McMacken.

He said that they might not have accomplished what they want if the commissioners are not comfortable with what they have.

Irritating  — that is how some might perceive the sound trucks make during unmuffled engine braking. Schade recently reached out to the logging community and others to get some feedback on this issue. She also researched what other communities in the Black Hills do to enforce a prohibition of unmuffled engine brake usage.

“My conclusion is nobody is going to have a problem with a prohibition against unmuffled engine brakes,” Schade said.

However, according to Schade, the truckers are concerned that it’s a stepping stone to ban the brake altogether.

The engine brake or jake brake still needs to be used — especially on Deerfield Road. Schade said as long as they stick to just prohibiting truckers from using unmuffled engine brakes there should not be any problems.

Enforcement of the rule will be a problem for law enforcement as it will be hard to prove and will require a decibel meter.

Schade said it would cost more in court fees to try to defend the tickets than the city would collect.

“The truckers will go to court on this because without a decibel meter you can’t prove it,” Schade said.

Signage would be a good deterrent for responsible drivers.

The commission thought that most of the drivers would be respectful if a ordinance would be put in place.

Vice Chairperson for the commission, Les Gonyer, said it will never be proven unless there is a deputy with a decibel meter.

Discussion also transpired about what a fine would be if they were to enforce use of the unmuffled jake brakes.

McMacken said if punishment is left to open it would be up to the deputies for what the fine would be. They might be too harsh or too lenient.

More change is coming with a draft ordinance because there are still some things left to clarify.

Householder also created a list of suggested permitted zoning specifications for commercial zoning districts in C1 through C4. Schade asked what the problem is with the current commercial zoning districts. Householder said that the zoning districts were created based on a national scale and Hill City doesn’t fit the national norm.

“We just feel there is still too much open to interpretation and we just want to make it as simple as possible,” Householder said.

Changes will be made. When something in the commercial zoning districts needs to be zoned and  looked at the commission will know what section the business fits under.

The next Hill City planning and zoning meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 5:30 p.m. in city hall.