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Meade County denies variance for SDSU property

December 15, 2018

STURGIS — The Meade County Commission Wednesday denied a variance to South Dakota State University for a driveway to its new ag research station, which is across from Sturgis Airport on Alkali Road next to the Western Dakota Antique Club.

Crews were already using a driveway approach that is approximately 230 feet west of the Western Dakota Antique Club’s driveway approach. The county’s driveway approach distance requirement falls under Ordinance No. 10, the highway/road ordinance, which requires a 500-foot separation.

At the commission meeting, Tanner Aiken, project manager and horticulturist for South Dakota State University Facilities & Services, asked for a variance to that distance.

“On roads like Alkali Road, major collectors and arterials, they (driveways) are supposed to be 500 feet apart. This one would take a variance to be closer than 500 feet,” said Bill Rich, Meade County’s deputy director of planning.

Commissioner Ted Seaman asked about the 500-foot requirement.

Assistant Highway Superintendent Scott Tegethoff said the requirement relates to automobile crashes. He said that if a car went off the road and struck an approach, the county wants to make it less likely the vehicle will hit a second approach if approaches must be 500-feet apart.

Commissioner Linda Rausch asked Aiken why they couldn’t meet the 500-foot requirement and what hardship that presents.

Aiken said the decision to put the building where it sits on the 114-acre site was to optimize the land for ag plots on the property.

“We thought that bringing the access in at the middle of the area would limit our use of those plots and make it a little more difficult to plant and run machinery around it,” he said.

The building, to be located in the southeast corner of the site, needs to be fenced outside the area of the food plots, Aiken said. It would be used for equipment storage and maintenance, office space and a small classroom.

Currently there is a 24-foot gate directly north of the driveway approach and to the east of where the building would be constructed.

“That would make it easiest for getting machinery right into the site,” Aiken said.

The food plots that will be situated on the site will be for grazing studies.

“They will be running cattle out there,” Aiken said. “They will be grading how the plots respond to grazing.”

Commission Chairman Galen Niederwerder said the distance between the approaches was a safety issue.

“The question comes down to, is this enough of a safety issue that we would require you to move it?” Niederwerder said.

Rausch made the motion to deny the variance, which passed unanimously.

A legislative bill, SB48, passed by the South Dakota Legislature last year and signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, authorized the South Dakota Board of Regents and SDSU to buy the improved, tillable land along Alkali Road for $902,461.

The Meade County land replaces research and demonstration land that had previously been rented near Wall.

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