KOTA-TV reported earlier this month that the South Dakota Municipal League wants to join the lawsuit (case #46CIV15-000094) brought by the City of Sturgis and local taxpayers Gary Lippold and Jane Murphy against the Meade County Commission to challenge the incorporation last spring of the Buffalo Chip Campground as a municipality. The incorporation is controversial because it appears none of the people who petitioned or voted to make Buffalo Chip a town actually live in Buffalo Chip.
The Municipal League filed the following motion to intervene on January 11, 2016:
The Municipal League’s argument rests on four key statutes:
- SDCL 9-3-1 says an area must have at least 100 legal residents and at least 30 voters. The Municipal League says the Meade County Commission erred in determining that Buffalo Chip meets those criteria.
- SDCL 9-3-3 requires a person organizing a municipality to take a census of landowners and resident population in the proposed municipal area no more than thirty days prior to submitting the incorporation application to the county commission. The Municipal League says Meade County failed to require that census. James M. Walczak swore to and submitted a census to the Meade County Commission at its February 25, 2015, meeting: that document lists 48 names (the incorporation petition claims 50, but two names, James and Michael Griffith, are listed twice), all with lot addresses at 20603 132nd Ave, Sturgis.
- SDCL 9-3-5 requires that a petition for municipal incorporation be “signed by not less than twenty-five percent of the qualified voters who are either registered voters in the proposed municipality or landowners in the proposed municipality who are also registered voters of this state.” The petition sheets circulated and filed by James Walczak and Kimberly Pehrson and included in the February 25, 2015 Meade County Commission agenda show 17 signatures; one of the signers, Cruize Gille, is not listed in the census.
- SDCL 12-1-4 (which readers of this blog know very well) defines residence for voting purposes as “the place in which a person has fixed his or her habitation and to which the person, whenever absent, intends to return.” In its motion, the Municipal League highlights that passage and the following: “A person is considered to have gained a residence in any county or municipality of this state in which the person actually lives….” Citing Heinemeyer v. Heartland (2008), the Municipal League contends the petition signers don’t satisfy the definition of residency.
The next motions hearing in the Buffalo Chip lawsuit is scheduled for March 4 before Fourth Circuit Judge Jerome Eckrich.