Nearly 65 percent of Sioux Falls voters approved zoning for a south-side Walmart store earlier this month. But homeowners against the project say the land at 85th Street and Minnesota Avenue was not properly annexed into city limits.
"If it's unplatted, regardless of how it was initiated, then our position is county approval is required," Ron Parsons, the attorney representing Save Our Neighborhood, said.
Save Our Neighborhood took its case to the South Dakota Supreme Court Tuesday. The group argues that the property was unplatted farmland prior to the annexation so the Lincoln County Commission should have signed off on the move before Sioux Falls brought the land within its borders.
"We contend that this legislative requirement applies to all municipal annexations that involve unplatted territories," Parsons said.
But James Moore, the attorney representing the City of Sioux Falls, says county approval is not needed when the landowner voluntarily wants the property annexed, which is what happened in this case. Moore says the city even went above and beyond and notified Lincoln County officials of the plan to annex the site.
"The testimony that was given at circuit court was that Lincoln County was given notice and that Lincoln County did not object in any way," Moore said.
But Chief Justice David Gilbertson challenged Moore on that argument saying that simple notice doesn’t meet the standards of state law.
“Giving the county notice is a far cry from the argument of opposing counsel that they in essence have a veto power over it,” Gilbertson said.
Moore agreed but said the fact that Sioux Falls gave Lincoln County notice without any issues proves that Lincoln County officials also don’t believe state law requires county approval of the annexation in this case.
"My point isn't that what the city is doing is necessarily correct. My point is that it is practiced based on an understanding of the statute that I think is correct," Moore said.
Save Our Neighborhood would like the Supreme Court to reverse the annexation, which would require the city council to go through the entire process again and include the approval of the Lincoln County Commission. The justices will make that decision at a later date.