SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls City Council advanced a plan to create a campus of state government offices but not without pushback from the community and some council members.
Last month it was announced the state of South Dakota would consolidate its Sioux Falls offices for several different departments into one campus on the east side of the city. The One Stop is modeled after a similar building in Rapid City. While public input at Tuesday’s council meeting showed many in support of the One Stop concept, they were not happy with its proposed location.
The campus will be located along Highline Avenue just north of 26th Street in Sioux Falls. To the west is Rosa Parks Elementary School with growing development with retailers, an Avera urgent care to the south and Dawley Farm Village to the north. The amenities have been cited as beneficial to those using the One Stop, but the issue is with transportation, as council member Greg Neitzert pointed out.
“If you’re over on my side of town (northwest Sioux Falls), you literally are gonna have to do three buses,” Neitzert said during the meeting. “You’re gonna have to ride the bus from the west side over to the southwest transfer station, maybe wait up to an hour, ride downtown [and] might wait up to an hour, ride again to get all the way out there.”
It could be an all-day affair, Neitzert concluded.
Several people during the public comment portion took issue with the availability, or lack thereof, of public transit stops at Dawley Farm. The closest bus stop to the proposed location is near Century East at Dawley Farm, a 0.6 mile walk to the One Stop.
“You know, it could take them hours to get out to this One Stop shop. You know, on paper, I heard, ‘Oh, there’s bus service to this location.’ But really, just because a bus goes there doesn’t mean it’s adequate transportation,” Phyllis Arends said.
Council member Rich Merkouris sympathized with the transit issue and provided an anecdote about a single mother he and his family are currently helping who leaves near 6th Street and Elmwood Avenue.
“If this person had a 9:30 a.m. appointment at the WIC office, she would have to leave her house at 7:32 to get there at 9:30,” Merkouris said.
While he said he was furious that such a barrier would exist for those utilizing the One Stop, Merkouris ultimately supported approving the location. He told the council members that despite his dislike of the east side space, the focus of the issue should be on improving public transit in Sioux Falls.
“What would help move the needle further on the poverty issues, is if we fixed the transit system,” Merkouris said. “The better gift that we could give the single mother that I’m seeking to help is not necessarily move this to the center of the city; the better gift that we could give is to try to have a longer-term sustainable transit plan [to] would provide her.”
Council members David Barranco and Pat Starr agreed transit is an issue in Sioux Falls but while Barranco saw the problem as a welcome challenge, Starr had a less optimistic approach.
“But for the last 20 years we’ve heard every politician that’s ever got elected in Sioux Falls is going to fix the transit system,” Starr said. “We had our folks from Bloomberg, we had special studies and we’re floundering around with this system. And it just got too hard, and we can’t fix it. So good luck to try to put that effort in.”
Hani Shafi, president of Dream Design who is contracted to build the One Stop, said he shares the concerns of the community on the location and the decision wasn’t made lightly.
“The total number of people that use public transportation is about 95. And I think I might have counted one difference. So, it might be 95 or 96, people that utilize public transportation accessing this facility,” Shafi told the council.
Shafi’s comment on the number of people using the One Stop surfaced another concern from a community member.
“I’m just sitting back here, take a look at extra parking spots. Shouldn’t you have enough parking spots for every vehicle for a person?” One community member asked.
Whether a person is using their own vehicle or public transportation, council members and community members agreed that the location was not ideal but could not come up with another location in central Sioux Falls that could accommodate the large space.
“It’s so big that our choices are really limited,” Barranco said.
In the end, the council voted 5-2, with Neitzert and Starr being the only votes against, to approve the ordinance to rezone the land for the new One Stop.
“It just seems really insensitive and tone deaf to just be sticking this out there,” Neitzert said.