Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias There goes the neighborhood.

That may have been what a number of people were thinking Monday night when the Vermillion City Council agreed to change the zoning of a parcel of land on the corner of Cherry and Dakota Streets from residential to commercial.

The zoning change, if not hampered by future legal action, will allow Casey's General Stores to construct a gas station and convenience store at the corner.

We don't doubt that there may be many people wondering if the council made the right decision.

Forget for a moment that Vermillion has a comprehensive plan (even though it's a bit outdated) stating that Cherry Street is a desirable place to encourage the development of retail business.

Be guided, instead, by using a bit of brainpower.

And challenge yourself with this question: Why shouldn't a Casey's convenience store be allowed to be constructed on the corner of Dakota and Cherry streets?

A number of homeowners living on Dakota Street told the Vermillion City Council in the past two weeks that they don't want to see a gas station placed there.

These same people seem to have no qualms about the presence of a gas station and convenience store at 116 E. Cherry Street, located approximately straight north across the street from the proposed Casey's site.

The people of Dakota Street who spoke in opposition to Casey's also never mentioned what one would assume to be a much larger imposition on their lives � The University of South Dakota.

Some of them have good reason to do that. Some people who own homes on Dakota Street don't rely on them as their primary residences.

They purchase them and rent them to university students each year. There's absolutely nothing wrong about that. Being a responsible landlord, one can imagine, is fraught with challenges.

At the same time, it must be worth the effort to some. Otherwise, they wouldn't go through the pains of keeping a house fit for students each year.

It was argued Monday that placing a Casey's on the corner of Dakota and Cherry would mark the beginning of the degradation of the Dakota Street neighborhood.

This "neighborhood," located on the western edge of the USD campus, however, lacks the solidarity of other residential zones in the city.

We don't doubt that people who bought houses as their primary residences feel right at home on the street. We don't blame them for resisting change they believe may be negative.

We have a hunch, however, that a close examination of the Dakota Street neighborhood will show that it is constantly changing. Some houses � like the one that in recent years has featured a famed headless pig ornament that keeps changing colors � will always be home to students.

Dakota Street is made up of property zoned primarily residential, but is home to many residents who likely only live there for the short period of time that they are attending USD.

People who fear that a Casey's at Dakota and Cherry will negatively change their lives also need to remember something. If any place has the potential for growth and change in Vermillion, it's USD.

That means Dakota Street isn't immune to being reshaped in future years by the university. In fact, an artist's rendition of the USD campus's appearance 20 to 30 years from now shows that an area of Dakota Street located west of the present South Dakota Public Broadcasting studios will be transformed into parking lots to serve not only the studio, but also a new business school building that will be added to the law school.

City Attorney Martin Weeks and an attorney for Casey's both contend the city's regulations have been followed correctly in seeking the zone change. At the same time, a lawyer hired by an adjoining property owner has argued that the petition for the change doesn't follow those rules properly.

Only time will tell whether that means future legal action is pending. In the meantime, we believe the city council made the right decision.

A new Casey's station will be a positive addition to the city of Vermillion.

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