Zoning amended for Ranger Square

Esther Noe
At the Nov. 13 meeting of the Hill City Common Council, an error occurred in the rezoning of the lots for the proposed development of Ranger Square.
The back two lots adjacent to Pine Avenue where the mixed use building is anticipated to go were zoned as Commercial 1 (C1). Meanwhile, the front two lots adjacent to Main Street where Ranger Square is planned were zoned as Commercial 3 (C3). 
In actuality, alderman Dale Householder informed the council at the Nov. 27 meeting that the motion was in reverse from the intended designation. Householder brought the topic back to be amended, making a motion to zone the Ranger Square lots as C1 and the mixed use building lots as C3. 
Alderman Ethan Walker seconded the motion, but alderwoman Lori Miner and alderman Jason Gillaspie voted no. Mayor Mike Verchio broke the tie by voting in favor. 
Next on the agenda was the approval of Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District No. 3. City administrator Brett McMacken presented the TIF No. 3 development agreement to the council, saying, “Back in September of ’22 there was a TIF No. 3 project plan that was adopted by the city council that set forth the basic parameters of what was being proposed as far as development. The main properties involved are the proposed location of Ranger Square and behind it some commercial and residential space to be created.” 
McMacken said the document essentially provides specific language regarding the relationship and how the TIF will work. In this case, there are several groups involved in the project so their relationship is specified within the document. With a TIF, McMacken said they also need to talk about how that incremented tax is being defined, collected and eventually reimbursed. 
Bob Lowery addressed the council to say, “Isaac (Almanza) is generously donating a large chunk of that land to create Ranger Square. It says so in the document and there’s no strings attached once it’s donated.” 
The land will be donated as soon as Ranger Square Inc. receives a 501(c)3 authorization letter from the IRS. This was predicted to take another 45 days at the meeting despite having been requested six months ago. Once the letter is received and the donation is complete, Lowery said they can begin talking about construction.
Several changes were made to the development agreement, and McMacken reviewed these with the council. These changes adjusted legal descriptions, formatting, definitions, language, punctuation, dates and other such things. Language was also changed to say that if the developer breaches any of the terms of the agreement, the city may terminate the agreement if the developer does not fully cure the failure within 60 days. 
McMacken said they were in communication with Toby Morris, who is the TIF expert within the state. After that, the document went to city staff and the city attorney for review. Several conversations later, McMacken said everything looked like it was falling into place. 
The council asked some clarifying questions regarding the document, during which Gillaspie asked if the document would need to be changed since the platting was not done. McMacken said eventually the properties would have different descriptions, and it would not hurt to amend the document at that time. 
“At this point, I’m inclined not to vote to approve it because that’s not done. The platting isn’t done and the vacating isn’t specified,” said Gillaspie. 
A man in attendance said this was perfectly fine going forward in a legal description because the new platting could reference the plats as “formerly known as” since the title searches back. Thus, he said it was a non-issue. 
Verchio also specified that the city attorney did not have these concerns. 
Walker made a motion to approve the TIF No. 3 Development Agreement, and Householder seconded it. Gillaspie voted no, saying he would like to see things in place before finalizing the agreement. Miner agreed with Gillaspie and voted no. Verchio broke the tie, voting yes. 
The approval of the special event permit for the Run Crazy Horse Marathon in October 2024 was brought before the council as well. This will be the 15th year of the event. 
“I know last year there were some questions about moving the finish line, and it’s actually not really that easy,” said Emily Wheeler. “This course is perfect, and it is why people are coming from all over the world and the U.S.” 
Wheeler’s proposal did not contain any changes from the past 11 years. They usually use Tracy Hall Park for their 5K and the children’s 1K on Saturday and have a street closure between McGregor and Elm on Sunday. 
Verchio said he received lots of positive comments regarding the event and there were lots of different things businesses could do to take advantage of the event.
It was asked by a member of the public that the street is cleaned up better after the race. 
Householder thought the event brought a lot of people to town and was good for the economy and therefore had no problem with it. 
Chuck Voorhees spoke in favor of the event as well, saying, “I think anytime you bring a lot of people to downtown in a shoulder season event, I think it’s a win.” 
The council unanimously approved the event. 
AE2S brought a task order to the council regarding a wastewater system facility evaluation. 
Joe Nobel of AE2S said, “We’re specifically looking at your current wastewater treatment facility as it sits. In talks with staff, we understand that this is a significant concern. Because of the nature of the evaluation, it’s a little bit more extensive when you start talking specifically treatment, especially large-scale treatment.” 
Similar to the water system facility evaluation, Nobel said AE2S is looking to get state funding for the cost of the evaluation. 
“We’ll see that the first service is going back after a planning grant, specifically on the wastewater side of things, but then all the other remaining tasks are pointed at reviewing your existing facility, doing load projections on current and future, looking at current regulations as well as coordinating with the state on any potential future regulations, changes, any sort of affluent limitation changes and then starting to kind of a look at your capacity, the site, what are your options, what are the alternatives,” said Nobel. 
Ultimately this will build into a finalized evaluation that could be submitted to be a part of the state water plan. 
“We understand particularly in the summer you’re running at and maybe above capacity in your current treatment facility so this is a very high desire need to do that,” said Nobel. 
Payment would be a lump sum price of $54,000. The facility plan is required to get State Revolving Funds funding for wastewater upgrades.
After some additional discussion, the council unanimously voted in support of the wastewater system facility evaluation.
AE2S presented another task order regarding a Hill City Flood Risk Assessment. There is a Federal Emergency Management Agency planning grant available for flood mitigation with a deadline of Dec. 1. 
The application fee is $7,000, but the total task fee is $167,800. FEMA supports 75 percent of the planning funding. State hazard mitigation funding would cover 15 percent so the city would only cover 10 percent, which Nobel said comes out to approximately $16,700. The funding for this would not come until the summer. 
For the task, AE2S would conduct the FEMA funding application, meetings, project management, grant support and data collection. It would also examine an assessment of existing conditions for flood risk and flood mitigation options. Finally, it would provide a technical analysis report. 
If the city does not receive funding, Nobel said the only amount the city would have to pay is the $7,000. However, Nobel did not anticipate any reason why FEMA would not support the project based on his communication with them.
“One of the big hopes for that is finding potential mitigation projects that would qualify for potential FEMA support down the road. This is the step necessary to go after potential FEMA support for an actual mitigation project,” said Nobel. 
Householder said this could help with the Memorial Park project as well, and Nobel agreed. 
Walker asked if the application could be reused later if it was denied, and Nobel said they could reevaluate it further down the road and go after the grant again if it was available. 
When explaining some benefits of this evaluation, McMacken said the city was going off outdated maps and elevation data. With the new assessment, he said, “You’ve got that potential now of creating a more accurate model so you have a more accurate idea of what you can do potentially with the land that is around it.” 
With some additional discussion regarding the benefits, potential outcomes and the results other cities have had, the council unanimously voted to approve the task order. 
The Pack Mule Provisions and Grocery at the corner of Main and McGregor Street requested a variance to hang a total of six signs outside. Five will face Main Street, and one will face McGregor Street. All but one are to be attached to the underside of the open patio. 
The proposed land use does not conflict with Hill City’s Comprehensive Plan, meets the standards set forth in Title 9 and meets four of the eight variance review criteria. The applicants do need to verify the required eight-foot clearance between the sign and the ground. Certified letters were sent to surrounding property owners, and one person responded saying they thought it would look very nice.
The council had no objections to the variance and unanimously approved it. 
Due to the lack of a quorum, the next meeting of the Hill City Common Council was rescheduled from Dec. 11 to Wednesday, Dec. 20 at 5:30 p.m. at city hall. 

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