Back by popular demand, the second annual mayoral panel at this year’s AIA South Dakota Convention included four leaders representing communities across the state. While their cities vary greatly in geography, economy, diversity and population, the mayors found common ground in the challenges they are all facing in planning for a better future. Moderated by AIASD Board President Tom Hurlbert, the panel addressed questions ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic response to affordable housing and smart development.
Selected excerpts of the discussion follow (responses are not verbatim):
Q: How has the COVID pandemic affected planning in your town?
A: (Collier-Wise) We have had great success in converting outdoor space for temporary dining and commercial use. We have begun to challenge the mindset that we only have three nice months for outdoor activity, and are finding new ways to expand the outdoor season. (Allender) We also had great results with expanded outdoor dining, but also learned we could’ve used a hand in planning as we continued to make adjustments to sidewalk barriers over the summer.
Q: How are you addressing the “missing middle” of affordable housing?
A: (Allender) We are in the midst of a trial project, with 5 units on a former single-family lot. (Caron) Watertown had made zoning changes to allow more options for housing, such as communal living as a conditional use with some additional regulations for parking. We have a new compact residential zone with smaller lots to increase density.
Several of the panel indicated private homeowners are often the impediment to allowing infill multi-family and affordable housing, so groups need a clear vision and ability to gain some consensus in the neighborhoods they want to work in.
Q: How can cities incentivize infill development and higher density, along with disincentivizing continued urban sprawl?
A: (TenHaken) We have a number of options to help subsidize the cost of infill development, such as our housing trust fund. Developers need to be creative with other new funding sources. (Allender) We have 85 TIF’s in Rapid City, largely because the council never wants to be seen as anti-development. With 2-year terms they need to worry about the next election before they even understand the full duties of their position. Sprawl is our major “financial sin” and we need to explain the long-term cost to the whole community of extending and then maintaining miles and miles of new infrastructure every year. (Caron) We have two TIF’s in progress for mixed use developments- we invested taxpayer dollars to make the projects work.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: (Collier-Wise) Don’t forget our smaller towns- we need communities of all sizes to thrive for the state as a whole to prosper. (TenHaken) Get involved! The AIA should be the trusted voice that the city council can go to for advise on all these planning issues. Show up to support the good ideas as well as opposing the bad ones.
Moderator Hurlbert kept the discussion moving, and cautiously allowed that all four panelists would be invited back next year for another engaging conversation.
Steve Allender was elected as mayor of Rapid City in 2015, following 29 years in the RCPD including a long tenure as Chief of Police. He is excited to meet the challenge of growth around the upcoming bomber program being added to Ellsworth AFB.
Sarah Caron was elected as mayor of Watertown in 2017. She formerly worked as a civil engineer including work for the city of Watertown. Sarah and her husband moved back from the West Coast to raise their family in the nation’s “Strongest Town” (2020 winner.)
Kelsey Collier-Wise had the most unlikely path to mayor, being appointed to the position earlier this year after the passing of Mayor Jack Powell. Kelsey completed her undergrad out of state before returning to earn her law degree at USD, in her hometown. Kelsey also serves as Executive Director of the Vermillion United Way.
Paul TenHaken was elected mayor of Sioux Falls in 2018, following a career as an executive in the digital marketing field. Paul is looking forward to partnering with surrounding communities as Sioux Falls builds up to its neighbors and becomes a true metropolitan area.
Thomas Hurlbert, AIA, is principal architect at CO-OP Architecture in downtown Sioux Falls. While not a trained moderator, he got the job done.