Petitions prepared to refer city zoning decision

Petitions prepared to refer city zoning decision by David Lias The Vermillion City Council likely won't have the final say on the zoning of a tract of land in the north part of town.

It's likely that citizens will determine whether the property, located east of Princeton Street between West Duke Street and S.D. Highway 50, will retain its original residential zoning, or have its zoning altered to allow light industrial and retail businesses to locate there.

The Vermillion City Council voted unanimously July 19 in favor of the zoning change.

For several weeks, there has been speculation in the community that Wal-Mart has plans to locate a retail center on the property.

Caitlin Collier, Vermillion, is among the organizers of a petition drive in the city to refer the city council's zoning decision to a public vote.

"We are going to begin circulating petitions," Collier said Monday. "I am just doing the finishing touches on the preparation."

She expects that several people will be carrying the petitions and gathering signatures throughout the community.

She noted that a large number of people attended a meeting held approximately three weeks at the Vermillion Public Library.

"Some people were just curious, and other people indicated they were really opposed to the zoning change, so we expect a number of those people will be assisting in getting things going."

Even though the petitions will call for referral of strictly the city council's zoning decision, Collier expects citizens will also link the drive to Wal-Mart.

"I think both issues (zoning and Wal-Mart) are really important," she said. "One of them is an issue of planned growth in any community, and we certainly have had, around us, a number of examples of growth in business,

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commercial and well as residential, getting out of hand in communities that weren't thinking intentionally about what was in the best interest of the community."

It's also important for Vermillion citizens, Collier said, to consider the impact that Wal-Mart may have on the community.

"Since apparently the Wal-Mart that they are planning here is going to be a supercenter, it will be in direct competition with a number of businesses that are not going to be able to compete with a huge corporation like Wal-Mart," she said. "These (businesses) are our neighbors."

By statute, to refer an issue to a public vote, petitions must contain signatures numbering at least 5 percent of active voters.

That means people involved with the petition drive must gather at least 424 signatures. "But we are certainly going to be looking at gathering a larger number than that," she said.

The referendum process must be completed in 20 days from the city council's decision.

Petitions will need to be turned in by Aug. 12. If the drive is successful, a date for the special election will be determined by the city council.

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