SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A group of Lincoln County landowners has filed a lawsuit against the state of South Dakota and the Department of Corrections over the site of a new men’s prison.
The lawsuit outlines many of the landowners’ arguments against using farmland between Harrisburg and Canton to house 1,500 prisoners. It also poses a major legal question:
Should the state be subject to local planning and zoning laws?
That’s one of the questions at the center of the lawsuit. The 28-page document details many of the reasons area landowners oppose turning 320 acres of state-owned farmland near the intersection of two gravel township roads. The opposition has named itself Neighbors Opposing Prison Expansion, or NOPE.
This land is zoned as an A-1 agricultural district. Local landowners argue this area is lacking roadways, sewer, water, electric and other infrastructure needed to support the 1,500-person prison proposed for the site.
The lawsuit calls the state’s selection process “arbitrary” and “unreasonable”–without any “comity” or courtesy to local governments and neighboring landowners.
In a letter dated October 20, DOC Secretary Kellie Wasko told the landowners’ attorney that zoning ordinances and land use approvals are not required for state-owned property.
The lawsuit challenges the 1977 Attorney General opinion that as a ‘general rule’ zoning regulations or land use restrictions do not apply to state-owned land.
The Lincoln County landowners argue that the state “Supreme Court has not adopted the general rule’ but rather a ‘balancing of interests test’ allowing for consideration of the state’s impact on local zoning plans and allowing the ‘courts to balance competing public and private interests.”
The lawsuit asks a judge to require the state to follow local zoning laws, and bring the proposed prison to the Lincoln County’s Planning Commission to officially change the zoning, while also giving local government and landowners due process in the state’s decision.