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Change of zoning approved at Top Shelf Development

November 10, 2018

SPEARFISH — The Spearfish City Council Monday approved a change of zoning at Top Shelf Development that would allow for the construction of a senior living facility, single-family homes, and duplexes on the 19.5-acre parcel in question.

The change of zoning, from agriculture and R1 residential to R3 multifamily on the parcel off of Green Spot Lane and Talisker Avenue, was approved by a vote of 4-1, with Councilman Marty Clark voting nay. Councilman George Martin was absent.

In addition to the change of zoning, the council also unanimously approved a development agreement that provides limitations on the parcel. The agreement limits the land use on the parcel to a senior living facility in phase 1 of construction, and to a single-family and duplex residential community in phase 2; limits building height of all structures on the property to 35 feet; declares that no multi-family dwellings would be constructed during phase 2; ensures that all buildings on the property would conform to the development’s covenants pertaining to exterior building materials and finishes; provides for landscaping requirements and maintenance of a berm on the lot; restricts lighting to a maximum of 10 feet in height, which is required to be fully cutoff and shielded; and is binding for any future owners of the property, meaning that if the parcel were sold, the limitations within the agreement apply.

“I know I had originally had some concerns, with just the concept of being able to put whatever you want on that plot, and I feel like that can be mitigated through the development agreement … I think that makes me feel a lot more comfortable, and seeing what the Rossis (David and Spencer Rossi of ETR, LLC, the developer of Top Shelf Development) have done already out there, I feel like they’re in for the betterment of the community and also make it an inviting environment,” Councilman Dan Hodgs said.

Top Shelf development has been the topic of several public meetings since its inception: In 2016, the planning commission recommended approval of a multiuse development review district (DRD)-zoned project for development that included a senior living facility in a portion of the area now in question, and when the request moved before the Spearfish City Council, members voted 3-3 on the request, with Mayor Dana Boke breaking the tie and voting not to approve the request. The developers then submitted a request to rezone 58 acres of the project area from agriculture to single-family residential, which was approved in 2017.

Streets and utilities have since been built at Top Shelf, along with dedicated left-turn lanes into the development on both McGuigan Road and Highway 14, and homes are now under construction in the single-family zoning portion, with several already completed.

In addition, a 20-foot-high and 80-foot-wide berm was constructed along the north and west perimeter to buffer the development from neighbors, and the development agreement outlines that trees and native grasses must be planted on the berm, with all vegetation to be maintained by the owner.

Significant public comment has been provided at each stage of Top Shelf’s development, and Monday, 15 people provided comments, with a few others signed up for the public hearing but choosing to defer their time. Of those, eight spoke in favor of the project, commenting about the need for integrated senior living options in Spearfish; the character and integrity of the developers; the desire for the jobs that would be created, directly and indirectly, through the project; the quality of the development already visible; and more.

“We need more beds; we need more assisted living centers; we need more facilities. We need more of these things for older people,” Sheryl Jasper, a resident said, describing the concept of “aging in place.”

Seven people asked the council not to approve the project, voicing concerns about traffic; not enough transition between land use intensity, with larger rural lots in the vicinity; the development agreement not having enough detail in terms of the size of the senior living facility or how many residences would be built in phase 2; the maintenance of the berm; and more. Adjacent landowners went door-to-door in the area collecting more than 325 signatures on a letter that stated, “Dear City Council, Please vote ‘NO’ on the request for the R3 rezoning at the Top Shelf Development that is currently before you. Going forward, please ensure that the city’s Comprehensive Plan is followed as it relates to location of high intensity uses and to providing transition between existing properties and future higher density uses. Please do not allow R3 type uses inside Top Shelf and ensure that there is transition of density between existing residential properties and any new development of higher intensity. Also, please ensure that traffic and safety concerns are suitable and accounted for.”

The city’s comprehensive plan, adopted in July 2013, has a variety of sections, and the items oft-quoted in relation to this zoning request are found under “Strategies for the Developing City.” The first three strategies state that land uses for new development should start with more intense land uses on major streets, with less intense uses on minor/local streets; that lower intensity land uses and open space corridors should be created to buffer existing land use and proposed land uses of different densities; and that design solutions should be created to allow mixed-use projects with a variety of residential, commercial, and employment areas fitting together compatibly.

While opponents felt the project does not meet these strategies as the public could reasonably interpret them, the city staff report goes through each strategy of the comprehensive plan as it applies to the change of zoning request, and its findings are that the project does follow the strategies.

City Planner Jayna Watson made clear at the start of the staff presentation, before the public hearing during which several residents asked the city council to follow the comprehensive plan, that the comprehensive plan is a reference point to guide decision-making; it is not a regulatory document.

“The strategies are not ordinance requirement, and they are not mandates,” she said, adding, “There is tonight differing opinions existing for if the plan strategies have been met …”

City staff recommended approval of the request, with the development agreement, and the planning commission also recommended approval of the request in October.

Following the public hearing, Clark asked who would own the berm, and Watson explained that that would depend on the platting. Hodgs asked whether phase 2 would come back to the planning commission, and Watson said that yes, the preliminary plat would come before the planning commission.

Councilman John Lee made a motion to approve the request, which was seconded by Councilman Larry Klarenbeek and approved 4-1. The development agreement, the next item on the meeting agenda, was approved unanimously.

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