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Jackpine Gypsies say they will refer annexation to a vote

Published in General News and Uncategorized

STURGIS — A public war of words has ensued between the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club and the city of Sturgis.

Club members, through their attorney, have vowed to refer their recent annexation by the Sturgis City Council to a public vote.

The council voted 7-1 Monday (with one abstention) to annex the Gypsies club grounds located off Moose Drive and Short Track Road west of Interstate 90 in Sturgis.

The yes vote on the resolution means that the annexation goes into effect 20 days after its legal publication. But opponents — such as the Gypsies — have within that 20 days to gather signatures and petition the city to put the issue to a public vote.

“It is the club’s intent that if you approve this resolution they will refer the matter to the voters. That’s not intended as a threat. That’s to give you a heads up,” Kellen Willert, a Belle Fourche attorney representing the Jackpine Gypsies, told council members prior to the vote Monday.

Willert said petitions began circulating Thursday.

Additionally, Willert  said the club has questions about the legal adequacy of the city’s notices that were served throughout the process.

Areas to the north and south of the Gypsies’ 47 acres are already included in the Sturgis city limits.

Since this issue surfaced earlier this year, the Gypsies have placed signs along their property letting people know that the right-of-way along Moose Drive was donated by the club in 2003.

A second sign reads: “In 2020 the Sturgis City Manager says: we need to pay our fair share to use it.”

And a third sign tells people: “You’re welcome… Please be Safe!”

City officials say they want to annex the property to accommodate the orderly growth and development of the city.

“Nowhere under your developmental framework does annexing this property become justified,” Willert said

At the first public hearing on the resolution of intent to annex the Gypsies property, club members Jim Paisley and Brett Winsell told the council they were concerned that annexing the club grounds, which includes a dirt oval racetrack, motocross, and hill climb course, may fall under present or future city restrictions on continuing those activities.

Without a clear agreement, club members worried that the city could impose limits on the time of day, days of the week, or enforce noise limits on the club’s racing events.

In a slide presentation prior to the vote Monday, Sturgis City Attorney Greg Barnier highlighted some areas of the proposed development agreement between the city and the Jackpine Gypsies.

It specifically stated that races of all sorts including flat track motorcycle racing, motocross, go-cart, and ATV racing, along with other activities could continue at the site.

Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said the council is not expecting the Gypsies to transform the property into a housing subdivision or other development.

“The city’s intention is not to make them make any changes to their property. In the proposed agreement, it wasn’t to force them to do anything different. We would allow them to continue to operate as they are just ensuring that there is dust mitigation and things like that,” Ainslie said.

As with other annexations that have been done by the city, property owners and city staff work first to agree on a voluntary annexation plan. If they cannot agree, then the city does what they did Monday — an annexation, allowed by state law, of the property.

Willert also told the city council he has questions about the adequacy of the notice of intent to annex and the council’s rationale for the action.

“You owe it to everyone to articulate why an annexation is appropriate,” he said.

In the end, the council voted to move forward with the annexation. Members voting for the annexation were Terry Keszler, Mike Bachand, Dave Martinson, Beka Zerbst, Jason Anderson, Steve Keszler and Mayor Mark Carstensen. Council member Rhea Crane voted against the annexation. City Councilmember Ron Waterland, a former Jackpine Gypsies Club member who at one time sued the club, abstained from voting.

The Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club is one of the oldest AMA-chartered off-road clubs in the country. Chartered in 1937, the club is credited with hosting the first Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in 1938.

Today, they host about 12 events during the Rally including short track racing, flat-track racing, motocross racing, hill climbs, and road tours.

Writer: Deb Holland
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