City council resolves to support economic development in area By: David Lias
Plain Talk The Vermillion City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday stating that it supports and welcomes economic development in southeastern South Dakota. This action came at the request of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company. VCDC representatives had noted at a recent meeting that a similar resolution on the cityâ�?�?s part failed last spring because of its focus on the Hyperion Refinery Project in nearby Union County. â�?�?The city council referred this issue to the Policy and Procedures Committee,â�? City Manager John Prescott said. The committee met on Oct. 2 and drafted the resolution that was before the aldermen Monday night. Prescott said the committee recognized that voters in Union County had approved zoning changes favorable to the refinery project, and that Hyperion was in the process of meeting state and federal requirements. â�?�?If a development like Hyperion or any other large development were to take place, the Vermillion community needs to be able to prosper from appropriate economic development opportunities that arise,â�? Prescott said. The resolution clearly states that it welcomes and supports economic development activity in southeastern South Dakota. It also recognizes that the zoning for the Hyperion refinery project has met voter approval in Union County. â�?�?Whereas potential employees of all businesses and industries considering Vermillion or southeastern South Dakota want a welcoming community to call home, the resolution states, â�?�?which provides housing opportunities, quality schools, employment opportunities, churches, parks, recreation opportunities, stores and features which add to the quality of life.â�? The resolutionâ�?�?s only mention of Hyperion is in its first paragraph, which states that Union County has approved the rezoning of land for its proposed rezoning center. Several people attending the meeting interpreted the resolution to therefore be pro-Hyperion. â�?�?I would like to ask you stay on task, stay on topic,â�? Mayor Dan Christopherson told the audience before public comment was accepted. â�?�?This is a generic economic development proposal or welcoming resolution; it doesnâ�?�?t deal specifically with Hyperion. This is not meant to be an activity to debate the pros and cons of Hyperion.â�? The mayor requests werenâ�?�?t granted. It didnâ�?�?t take long for public feedback to center primarily on the Hyperion proposal. James Hoffelmeyer of 515 Prentis Avenue immediately linked the resolution to Hyperion. â�?�?I think economic development is fine; I think itâ�?�?s a good idea as long as itâ�?�?s a sustainable activity,â�? he said. â�?�?In fact, there is a global movement toward sustainable economic activity. â�?�?The proposed project from Hyperion is absolutely unsustainable in terms of the survivability of humans â�?¦â�? â�?�?Point of order, Mr. Mayor,â�? said Alderman Mary Edelen. â�?�?Point of order, state your point,â�? the mayor responded. â�?�?We are speaking about the resolution which only has to do with economic development in Vermillion and the surrounding area,â�? she said. â�?�?We are not debating about Hyperion, so if you are opposing Hyperion â�?¦â�? â�?�?I am opposing the economic development that is not sustainable,â�? Hoffelmeyer said, before Edelen could complete her sentence. â�?�?I believe that is very much a key point relative to this discussion. I have a right to speak to that, and I insist that I complete my statement.â�? â�?�?This resolution only has to do with economic development in Vermillion and the surrounding area,â�? Edelen said once more. â�?�?That is what you need to keep on task on.â�? Hoffelmeyer was given permission to continue speaking by the mayor. He told the council that Hyperion would present substantial pollution dangers to the area, and held up panels showing how alternative forms of energy, such as wind and solar, would be less harmful to the environment. â�?�?We should use our own natural resources right here in South Dakota and create high-paying jobs,â�? Hoffelmeyer said. â�?�?I think thatâ�?�?s the kind of economic development that people might be welcoming.â�? Jerry Wilson of rural Vermillion said he commended the city council for its efforts to bring economic development to the area. He urged that future progress include wind energy and other technologies. â�?�?For that reason, I believe that bringing in 19th and 20th century which would be very polluting â�?¦ I donâ�?�?t believe that people who like to breathe clean air will come to Vermillion if thereâ�?�?s this type of pollution in the air,â�? he said. Wilson termed the cityâ�?�?s resolution â�?�?disingenuousâ�? in its attempts to presume that it isnâ�?�?t related to Hyperion. Jerryâ�?�?s wife, Norma Wilson, suggested the city leave out any mention of Hyperion in the resolution. â�?�?If this is in fact a resolution to support economic development,â�? she said, â�?�?and not a resolution in support of Hyperion Oil Refinery, I think you should leave out Hyperion Oil Refinery. We all want to see Vermillion prosper and grow, and we all want progressive economic development.â�? Steve Howe, executive director of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company, told the council that the VCDC issued a resolution of support to Hyperion last year, but this measure was not made without conditions. â�?�?It was contingent on Hyperion or any other industry wanting to locate in the region to meet all local, state and federal environmental guidelines.â�? Howe said the VCDC recognizes that with the refinery project comes great economic opportunity, and â�?�?we believe that environmental stewardship and economic development are not mutually exclusive concepts.â�? Howe said the cityâ�?�?s resolution is not a blanket endorsement of Hyperion. â�?�?It is an acknowledgement that this company might locate to the region, and we want to be prepared,â�? he said. â�?�?The question before you is should Vermillion be proactive or reactive to the changing economic conditions. â�?�?No one is asking you to endorse continued use of fossil fuels,â�? Howe said. â�?�?What is being asked of you is that you acknowledge the changes that will come with this company and that we intend to prepare ourselves.â�?