The Walmart tug of war continues, but a Save Our Neighborhood spokesperson said the company's challenge won't hold up. The group recently turned in more than 6,300 signatures, ultimately wanting the Sioux Falls City Council to let voters decide whether to re-zone land at 85th Street and Minnesota Avenue for a new store. In an affidavit filed on Monday, Walmart officials claim more than 2,000 petition signatures are invalid.
"I had not received an affidavit of this nature before," Sioux Falls City Clerk Lorie Hogstad said.
In total, the document from Walmart is about 116 pages. Hogstad now has to cross check each and every signature in question, which could take weeks.
"I have to specifically follow the state law as it's written in black and white and the administrative rules as well," Hogstad said.
Hogstad said Walmart officials have put claims in three separate lists of concern. Item one urges the whole petition should be thrown out due to the number deficiencies; Item two outlines issues with the signatures - such as the person may not be a registered voter or the signature is not readable; Item three is a list of people Walmart claims signed the petition more than once.
"I was surprised by the number they came back with because I can't fathom how they could find over 2,000 signatures that are invalid," Save Our Neighborhood spokesperson Dana Palmer said.
Palmer said she has also reviewed the signatures and feels many of Walmart's challenges are based on technicalities, such as signatures that may not be easy to read.
"Not all of us have the best handwriting when we're in a hurry," Palmer said. "As long as you can validate who that person is and that that's their address, that's the standard that the City Clerk has told us needs to be met."
The Homan family, which owns the land at 85th and Minnesota, released a statement to KELOLAND News, questioning the validity of the petition signatures:
"Our family has been a part of the Sioux Falls community for over 100 years. The south side of Sioux Falls is a logical place for future development and we appreciate the City Council's thoughtful respect of our right to develop our property in a way that benefits this area. For over 12 years our family has worked with city and county officials to ensure we manage our family's land in accordance with established zoning laws and long term community development plans. We have reviewed the signatures seeking to undo the City Council's recent approval decision and believe that this effort has fallen short of the minimum requirements needed to make the zoning of our land a ballot initiative. We hope that this will enable the Sioux Falls community and our family to finally move on and ensure people in Sioux Falls have the options they both want and deserve."
Walmart also released a similar statement, which said, "The petitioners fell short of the minimum number of valid signatures required." Looking ahead, Hogstad says the issue could be a stand-still for a while, as she cross checks Walmart's claims. Palmer said her group is ready for the long haul.
"There's never been a point where any of us said, 'It's time to throw in the towel,' because this is a significant goal for us," Palmer said.