Crawford overcomes roadblock

Crawford overcomes roadblock
The nation may have been waiting to see South Dakota voters' decision on a proposed abortion ban Tuesday night.

But an issue that may have garnered more local attention as election results were tallied in the Clay County Auditor's Office involved whether a street or a bike path be constructed in Vermillion to connect Crawford Road with Burbank Road.

Vermillion voters decided a road, not a bike path and nature preserve, would best serve the city's future needs.

The question of which alternative would win – the street or the bike path – was a subject of high drama Tuesday night.

Ballot tallies were so close that the clear-cut winner didn't emerge until the final city ward, including absentee ballots, were counted.

Initiated Measure A, calling for Crawford Road's extension, received 1,822 yes votes and 1,642 no votes.

A conflicting ballot issue, Initiated Measure B, calling for establishment of a nature preserve and construction of a bike path instead of the street, received 1,681 yes votes and 1,806 no votes.

The street initiative was approved with a 180 vote margin. Negative votes outnumbered positive votes for the bike path/nature preserve initiative 125.

The issue has been the topic of discussion since last spring.

In late March, the Vermillion City Council decided to remove the Crawford Road extension from the city's comprehensive street plan, despite a recommendation from the city planning commission to approve it.

It also rejected two alternative street routes west of the city, and opted to adopt Fairview Street as a future arterial route between Highway 50 and Burbank Road.

That action came after aldermen faced an audience of over 60 people Monday, many who testified against any further development of the street.

Last March, the city had four options from which to choose for future transportation needs: lengthening Crawford; developing a new route from Highway 50 south to Burbank Road located east of The Bluffs golf course known as alternative A; developing 466th Avenue (known as Alternative B) from Highway 50 to Burbank Road; and accepting Fairview Drive, known as Alternative C, a route that the county plans to develop from Highway 50 to Burbank Road.

The Vermillion Planning Commission had decided that 466th, which is currently a gravel road, shouldn't be considered an alternative, but should be viewed by the city as a future additional road.

The planning commission had also determined that Fairview Drive, which will be developed by the county in the future, is located too far east of Vermillion to be considered.

Fairview Drive, however, was the alternative favored the most by members of the city council.

Fairview is slightly more than a one mile east of Vermillion's city limits.

Last March, Alderman Kevin Annis was the only member of the council to vote against including Fairview Drive in its future street master plan.

The council set its sites on Fairview for the city's future street development, despite the recommendation of the Vermillion Planning Commission to not include Fairview because of its distance away from the city. The planning commission recommended that Crawford Road be extended to Burbank Road, but not be named a truck route.

The city council's action compelled Dave Hertz, a housing developer, to circulate petitions that placed Initiative A on the November ballot.

In August, opponents of the street's development circulated petitions of their own, placing the opposing Initiative B on the ballot.

Had Initiative B been approved Tuesday, the city council's action earlier this year to remove the Crawford Road extension from the city's comprehensive street plan and adopt Fairview Street as a future arterial route between Highway 50 and Burbank Road, would have been upheld.

City Attorney Jim McCulloch said the Vermillion City Council's next task will involve canvassing the votes from Tuesday, and eventually beginning the design of the street extension.

Other matters that typically would be on the agenda of a local governing body concerning street construction have already been decided by Vermillion citizens.

With its affirmative vote to Initiative A Tuesday, city voters decided:

  • to amend the city's current comprehensive plan to provide for the extension of Crawford Road from its intersection with Crestview down the bluff to Burbank Road to create a continuous arterial system that is not a truck route.
  • inclusion of the street extension project as the city's next street project in its Statewide Transportation Improvement Project (STIP) for the 2007 construction season or as soon after as possible. A STIP designation will make state and federal funding available.
  • Authorization of right-of-way acquisition either by negotiation and purchase or through the eminent domain process using a court and/or jury.

    "I think with the vote by the voters, the only action the city council will have is to canvass the vote and certify the results, and then later, when they are actually dealing with the road extension issues," City Attorney Jim McCulloch said, "they will be approving people to do the designs, bids to be let – things like that – anything it will take to build the road."

    Voters have amended the city's comprehensive plan to permit the Crawford Road extension, "so administratively in house, they will have to change the language of the comprehensive plan," he said. "I don't think that will take city council action or approval because the citizens have already stated how they want it worded."

    Placing Crawford Road into the STIP may need aldermen's action to schedule the road properly with the state.

    "I think the people have adopted those resolutions, and the only thing that the city council will be approving will be administrative matters to carry those decisions by the voters out," McCulloch said.

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