Letters Leave our neighborhood alone

To the editor:

I was born and raised in South Africa, a country where an oppressive government, both local and national, concentrated all its energies on protecting the well being and rights of a few rich and influential people. The man in the street, the majority of the population, had and still has very little redress. How strange then it is for me to have found myself living in Vermillion, South Dakota where things really appear to be no different.

I refer in this case to the Vermillion City Council's decision to re-zone the property on the corner of North Dakota and Cherry streets. The property in question has a North Dakota Street address and, as is the rest of North Dakota Street, it is zoned as a residential neighborhood. However, in response to a request from a single resident who stands to make a considerable profit from the proposed sale of the property, the Vermillion City Council has seen it fit to "spot" rezone the property and to change it to a commercial lot.

Since I own a home on Dakota Street, I have diligently attended all the city council meetings regarding this issue. Sadly, I have learned that the city council has the power to "spot" zone without much respect or concern for input from the residents who live in the surrounding area. At the four meetings I attended I listened to resident after resident emotionally express their outrage at the injustice of the North Dakota Street property being "spot" rezoned against their wishes. They spoke out on how the equity in their homes will be impacted, about the pride and hard work that they have put into maintaining their homes and the neighborhood. They expressed concern about how destroying the integrity of Dakota Street and any other street abutting the university will impact the overall appearance of our town.

To the ears of our city council, what these folks had to say seemed to have no effect. Their words seemed of no consequence and appeared to count for nothing. The USD student representative to the city council reported that their student committee had met and were adamant that they wanted the perimeter of their university to be left as is.

Our own Vermillion Planning Committee was unable to get a majority vote for this "spot" rezoning and so did not support it. Personally I have signed three petitions along with 99 percent of the residents in my neighborhood stating that we do not want the North Dakota property to be rezoned. These petitions too were completely disregarded by the Vermillion City Council.

The Dakota Street property has been "spot" rezoned.

To my understanding "spot" zoning is traditionally frowned upon in Vermillion, especially when it impacts citizens' homes. Why then were Mayor Radigan and Councilman Yelverton the only two city council members to express any concern at the prospect of randomly changing the zoning status of a residential area? Why were there only two members of the city council who expressed concern for residents and their homes?

For me the most scary part about this experience is that I have learned that my wishes, even though they are presented and represented in legal and prescribed form, will carry absolutely no weight and I will enjoy no protection from our elected city council.

The only argument given by the city council at the meetings I attended is that the "spot" rezoning of the North Dakota and Cherry Street corner will bring development to our town. In this case the development will be in the form of yet another convenience store! Another Casey's! We already have a Casey's, along with seven other convenience stores on Cherry Street. Does the council really believe that in order to develop as a city we need yet another convenience store?

In reality, as pointed out by several residents, another gas station/convenience store really means another four tanks of gasoline buried under our city, another beer outlet, and another five minimum-wages-no-benefit jobs. And does the city council really think that by the addition of another convenience store, Vermillion will sell more gas and beer than it already does? What of the Vermillion owned gas stations on Cherry Street? Do we in Vermillion really feel nothing about taking business away from hardworking fellow Vermillionites? And where will Casey's money go? Will it be reinvested into our town? I think not!

In the six years that I have lived here I have driven down Cherry Street on a daily basis. At no time have I ever seen a car waiting in line to fill up with gas at any of the existing convenience store/gas stations. As a fellow resident put it, "Why can't we build another gas station on Cherry Street when people in cars are lined up along the street waiting to get into a gas station?"

Lastly, I take issue with the council's definition of development. As I ride down their "developed" Cherry Street, "Hodge Podge" is the only description that comes to my mind. Plus, there is not much more than gas that I ever purchase on this "highway of gas stations." Is this really our city council's idea of development?

I for one, as a tax paying, voting resident of Vermillion would want the voices of the residents to be heard, understood and respected when "spot" zoning or any other major changes in our town are decided on by our city council.

In the case of the Dakota Street residents, please hear us, we are saying this as loudly as we can; "Leave our neighborhood alone!"

Ms. Merele F. Eintracht


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