Buffalo Chip case before state Supreme Court Monday

STURGIS – The South Dakota Supreme Court will once again hear oral arguments in Buffalo Chip’s quest to become a municipality.

The popular motorcycle rally campground near Sturgis is appealing a February ruling that ordered the town of Buffalo Chip to be dissolved because it didn’t have enough residents when it was incorporated in 2015. The city of Sturgis and surrounding landowners have opposed Buffalo Chip’s incorporation for years.

Fourth Circuit Judge Gordon Swanson ruled from the bench, meaning there was no jury, in February that the requirement for a municipal incorporation is both 100 residents and 30 registered voters.

Swanson entered his judgment of dissolution on Feb. 22. Buffalo Chip filed its notice of appeal on March 4.

The argument for reversal of Swanson’s ruling was filed on June 17. Although Kent Hagg is listed as the city attorney for the town of Buffalo Chip, the argument filed in the case was submitted by Zachary Peterson and Jack Hieb, attorneys for appellant.

Hieb will present oral arguments on Monday.

At the time of the Buffalo Chip incorporation vote, state law said a municipality may not be incorporated unless it contained at least 100 legal residents or at least 30 registered voters. The incorporated area of Buffalo Chip did have the 30 registered voters, but not 100 residents.

The town’s 43 registered voters approved the incorporation at an election

in May of 2015.

But soon after, landowners adjacent the campground and the city of Sturgis questioned the campground’s incorporation as a legal municipality.

The case ultimately led to the South Dakota Supreme Court which ruled in January 2018 that only the state had the jurisdiction to decide the legality

of such an incorporation. The state then asked the attorney general’s office to intervene in the case on its behalf.

The state was requesting the court to vacate the articles of incorporation

of Buffalo Chip and order its dissolution.

Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said Swanson’s ruling set aside the “purported” municipal incorporation of the campground as a town.

“The judges’ ruling is determinative. This specific ruling is more than

enough to nullify the incorporation as a municipality,” he said in February.

Ainslie says common sense says Buffalo Chip is not a town because no

one lives there.

“Towns must have residents. A logical reading of the state statute says

that, and that is what it means,” he said.

The South Dakota Supreme Court will hold its October term of court

at the School of Law, University of South Dakota, in Vermillion, on Sept.

30-Oct. 2.

The court will hear oral arguments in three cases each day. Court will

open at 9 a.m., and cases will commence on the hour.


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