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Municipal League Says RV Voters Aren’t Residents, Can’t Make Buffalo Chip Town

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:

SD Municipal League, motion to intervene, 46CIV15-000094, 2016.01.11, pp 1-2.
SD Municipal League, motion to intervene, 46CIV15-000094, 2016.01.11, pp 1-2.
SD Municipal League, motion to intervene, 46CIV15-000094, 2016.01.11, pp 3–4.
SD Municipal League, motion to intervene, 46CIV15-000094, 2016.01.11, pp 3–4.
SD Municipal League, motion to intervene, 46CIV15-000094, 2016.01.11, pp 5–6.
SD Municipal League, motion to intervene, 46CIV15-000094, 2016.01.11, pp 5–6.

The Municipal League’s argument rests on four key statutes:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


  1. Paul Seamans 2016-01-26 13:46

    I have thought that the Meade County commissioners approved calling Buffalo Chip a city because they were pissed at the City of Sturgis because Sturgis is fighting the bypass road that the commissioners want, sort of a power struggle.

  2. jerry 2016-01-26 14:36

    Let the chips fall where they may.

  3. Bob Newland 2016-01-26 17:03

    Free the Chip!

  4. moses 2016-01-26 17:08

    Feel the chip.How about this let them be residents but charge them 2500 for property taxes to help pay for all these roads South Dakota has to offer ,Not only will we get money for taxes but we can get our roads fixed at the same time.We then could tell who would be a chip off the old block.

  5. leslie 2016-01-26 17:11

    Paul if correct that is a sad state of affairs. I suspect it has more to do with who is on the town council, the county board, the legal advisors, what woodruff wants, the Sumerset incorporators, who is getting the liquor license(s), who stands to make more money, and perhaps what Dept. Tourism wants for the State. Old resentments too perhaps as suggested. A neon sign on top of Bear Butte is what is at risk, figuratively. This is what happens when white guys steal Indian land, imo.

    3 cheers 4 SDML.

  6. bearcreekbat 2016-01-26 18:09

    moses, don’t you mean a block off the old Chip?

  7. grudznick 2016-01-26 18:38

    I don’t care who’s a chuck off the chip, but that Mr. Woodruff fellow should be reigned in from being a private property owner with the ability to levy taxes and annex his neighbor’s property. Maybe he can now annex it then condem it and swipe it for his own, unknown, nefarious purposes.

  8. grudznick 2016-01-26 18:40

    Maybe Buffalo Chip City is going to become a hotbed for robber barons by offering them TIFs to build headquarters there. And regulating gambling and liquor licenses. Buffalo Chip City will be a hotbed of debauchery.

  9. owen reitzel 2016-01-26 19:06

    except nobody will be there Grud

  10. grudznick 2016-01-26 19:33

    All the people who frequent the pay day loan centers will be there, and with their fists full of Hamiltons they will purchase booze and stuff cash into video lottery machines, enriching the robber barons even more. All we need next is to open an unemployment office there and a welfare distribution center and the population of Buffalo Chip City will skyrocket in no time.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-26 19:37

    Don’t they have to have a city council to be a municipality? Has Buffalo Chip elected any city officials? They can’t conduct any official business like obtaining or distributing liquor licenses without official action by an elected board, can they?

  12. Winston 2016-01-26 22:53

    Let’s not be buffaloed on this issue nor have a chip on our shoulder do to its eventual outcome. Does anyone know? Does Miss Buffalo Chip have a position?…..On this issue that is….

  13. moses 2016-01-26 23:09

    Winston, your wasting time here.Take Tune on and get some photo ops.I can get you a soccer ball as Thune has the basketball sewed up.

  14. Winston 2016-01-26 23:20

    Moses, I would prefer an American football not an European football…Thanks though…. ;-)

  15. grudznick 2016-01-26 23:36

    Mr. H, I think they have a government. Mr. Woodruff’s wife is a big part of it and his girlfriends are the other parts. It is a government that has had zero corruption as of yet. But Sturgis is going to declare a ground war, and the locals smell blood and money. Mark my words, the robber barons are circling and if Bob gives me a ride up there again this summer we will report all the details.

  16. Winston 2016-01-27 13:45

    Mike, I appreciate the advice, but to me politics is tackle ball and not flag ball…

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-30 13:38

    From Bret’s article:

    “The first trustees were appointed: Bonnie London, Greg Smith and Daymon Woodruff. Nyla Griffith will serve as the city clerk, and Jim Walczak will be city finance officer. All are employees of Buffalo Chip Campground. Fourth Circuit Judge Michelle Percy did the swearing in of the trustees prior to their first public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday.”

    Appointed trustees? No public vote? What statute allows the town to be run by trustees? Who did the appointing? And how long can they serve until a real vote is held?

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