Balancing our small town charm  with steady growth - part 3 of 7

As a community grows, considerations for its infrastructure must be made to make sure it can serve the population, requiring additional or upgraded infrastructure, like the utility main work that happened during the Main Street redo in 2011. Pioneer file photo by Kaija Swisher

SPEARFISH — City Planner Jayna Watson explained that the number one determining factor for developing a new location for residential or commercial is whether water and sewer services are available. If those utilities are not in place, a property owner has to make the decision about whether to spend the money to extend miles of service lines to serve the project.

For example, at the Reserve off of the Old Belle Road, two miles of water main had to be built to serve the development. This was a major decision and consideration for the city, and Watson said that in such cases, the city becomes a business partner as it considers how much territory the new infrastructure could serve. Instead of running new lines to every project, one can be built to serve many, and Watson said this is one of the roles of the planning commission and planning department, to consider project plans and ask questions about how else they could serve the city and its future. The developer and city partner and decide what portion of the project will be paid for by whom and for what.

Once those decisions are made and the infrastructure built, then those areas become potential growth areas, since they now have utilities. Watson listed the Old Belle Road and Exit 17 as some of the areas that may be next for development, as there is infrastructure in place to serve them. The Highway 85 corridor north of Spearfish could also be a growth area as soon as an organized water and sewer system are built, she added.

There are various federal, state, and city regulations that must be met as developments are built. Joe Jorgensen, a realtor in Spearfish who’s been involved with developments in Spearfish since the 1960s, said that the constantly changing regulations make everything cost more. For example, he said that detention ponds and drainage are a huge issue to consider in developments today; if one drives around a new development, storm sewers are a major factor, while in the Jorgensen and Evans additions developed in the 1980s and 90s, everything was allowed to drain on the surface.

“Their rules and regulations get more restrictive all the time,” he said.

Any of these decisions must go through various processes before coming to fruition, and the city’s governing body gets a say on where, when, and how its community develops.

“In most cases, the city council is a reactionary body on development,” City Administrator Joe Neeb said. “Whether it is locally driven or comes in from outside of the city, requests to develop residential and commercial must be addressed by the city council.”

When asked how city council can address all the needs of the various individuals that make up the city of Spearfish, Councilman Doug Schmit was realistic, saying that it is impossible to please everyone.

“You can certainly try,” he said.

Schmit provided individuals asserting the council’s taking away ag land for development as an example of comments one may hear around town.

“Well, we (the city council) aren’t,” he said. “We don’t dictate that. … It’s the people that own the land. All we can do is advise, regulate, administer what we feel are the best applications that will fit that land.”

After a record-breaking year for building permits in the city, it’s not uncommon to hear comments about the city’s population mimicking these trends, yet examining the numbers shows stable — not spiking — growth.

Bryan Walker, executive director of the Spearfish Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), said that unlike many areas, Spearfish has seen a steady pattern of population growth.

“Since 1990, our population has grown by approximately 3 percent annually,” he said. “This predictable growth has allowed the community to better plan its future.”

Mayor Dana Boke is proud of the work the planning and zoning department is doing to maintain the look and feel of Spearfish into the future, pointing to its downtown corridor, rec path, and park system as some of the pieces that make Spearfish the family-friendly destination it is known to be.

“You have a smaller-town community feel … it’s being able to preserve the small-town feel even though we’re getting larger, which is easier said than done,” she said.

One of the resources for the city council uses as it makes its decision is the comprehensive plan: Envision Spearfish, adopted in 2013, is a document that presents an overall vision for the future of Spearfish. According to the document, it is the foundation for regulations, codes and methods to guide future growth and operations, acting as a reference point for how decisions should be made at the citizen board/city council level: “The overall and recurring theme of this plan is the desire to offer the opportunities found in a larger community, but within the safety and intimacy of a small town.”

The plan is adopted for a period of 5-10 years before being updated, and some of the first goals listed within it state that Spearfish is envisioned as a city that: “is a safe, sustainable municipality; accommodates and promotes physical, social, and economic growth; protects its environmental assets, tree-lined neighborhood streets, avenues and parks; has a harmonious mixture of quaint and modern architecture; maintains an unhurried, uncomplicated, casual, and enriching lifestyle; supports a variety of economic educational, recreational and culture opportunities.”

The document is broken into categories detailing community design and development and community management and operations, and within each category, ideas and desires of citizens are expressed. The plan is available on the city’s website, under the city administrator tab, under Reports and Presentations:

See tomorrow’s Pioneer for the next installment of the series.

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