GILLETTE — A rezoning request that would allow for apartments to be built off of Tanner Drive in south Gillette made it through the City Planning Commission and will go before the Gillette City Council for three readings. The residents of the nearby Legacy Ridge subdivision are upset with the decision because they’re worried that with the addition of apartments down the street, their quality of life and property values will take a dive. Stencil Group, a general contractor based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is wanting to rezone a 35-acre lot north of Southern Drive and west of Tanner Drive.
It’s currently R-1, which only allows houses, and it’s wanting to rezone it to R-4, which would allow for apartments to be built. This rezoning request will go before the City Council at its Sept. 19 meeting. At a planning commission meeting last week, residents spoke about their concerns regarding the project, and the developer, Nathan Stencil, was there and tried to address those concerns and shed some light on the project. He said he’ll be building an apartment complex on about 15 acres on the north side of the lot.
He said it will not be low-income housing, and that his company also will manage the apartment. If it goes well, a second apartment building could be built on the rest of the property. “We will follow through on everything we say, we have a strong track record of doing this in South Dakota and Minnesota,” he said. Rusty Bell, director of the Office of Economic Transformation for Gillette College, said that in the last six months, the No.
1 problem local businesses are facing is a lack of housing. Companies trying to recruit employees are struggling to find places for them to live. Bell said he’s talked with developers, realtors and contractors, and the city needs to think outside of the box and recognize that “there has been a serious change in conditions and economics of what you can build.” Right now, it doesn’t make sense to build a lot of houses, Bell said, and “multi-family housing is what makes sense in the economy.” “I’m asking you to move this forward, recognize the change in conditions, work with the developer, work inside the structure and build something nice for our community,” he said. There also is a 6-acre lot just south of Legacy Ridge that is not slated for anything right now because it’s in an area that floods easily.
Stencil said that would be a perfect place for a park. “We want to be transparent about what we’re going to do,” Stencil said. “We’re listening and we want to be good neighbors, we understand it’s not a perfect situation.” He said the plans for the apartment building have been changed “quite extensively” in the past several weeks based on the concerns he’s heard from the nearby residents, and that more changes will be coming. “We’ll do what we say we’re going to do,” Stencil said.
“I know that when we get done doing all this, that drainage issue is going to be gone, they’re going to have a beautiful park, six acres there, I guarantee it.” Resident Jerrod Walker said he was disappointed because it seems like the city is siding with out-of-state developers over taxpaying homeowners on this issue, all in the name of economic development. “We worked our tails off, along with all the other kids that grew up in this community and have built this community,” he said.
“They do not want to see this, nobody in this neighborhood wants to see this.” Walker said Stencil can make all of the promises he wants, but the truth is that developers come and go. While the property might change hands, the residents of the neighborhood won’t be going anywhere, and they’ll be the ones who will have to deal with the effects. Jack Clary said this is what happened with the South Fork Apartments. “All people did was buy it and jack up the price and left garbage behind,” he said.
“Is that what we want in this community? I hardly think so.” And it’s not like the residents of Legacy Ridge can just pack up their bags and leave if they don’t like it, Walker said. “Will most of us be here? Yeah, this is where our families are, we’re going to be here,” he said. Right now, the neighborhood is a great place for families to live, he said. “That’s all going to change when you build this,” Walker said.
“That will change, you will devalue all the properties.” The planning commission approved the rezoning request on a 3-1 vote. Commission Chair Shaun Hottell, along with commission members Richard Cone and Ian Scott, supported the request. Cristal Pratt voted against it because she thought it was “not in the best interest of nearby homeowners.” Ryan Conklin abstained from voting. Meredith Duvall, planning manager for the city, said that if the city approves the request, Stencil will have to go through the development process.
This includes a number of documents that he must provide, such as a landscaping plan, a drainage report, a traffic study and a school impact study. Terry Leu, the first resident who took issue with this, asked the planning commission to do the right thing. “Quit doing more wrong, because all it does is hurt people, and someone else is going to have to pick up the tab,” Leu said.
“Be kind to the rest of the people that are there already.” Tammy Hermstad brought up the issue of traffic, especially on Southern Drive going into Tanner Drive. “There is no turning lane there, people come up over the hill by the water tank, I’ve almost been hit a couple times,” she said. “The traffic right now is a horrendous problem,” Leu said. Residents also worried that there would be a road that connects the apartment to their neighborhood.
Stencil said the only access to the apartment building would be off of Tanner Drive. Stencil said there won’t be access to the apartment building from Southern Drive, and that any access would be off of Tanner Drive. He said there would be no direct access road put in between the apartment building and the Legacy Ridge neighborhood. And Jason Frederick worried that “our kids will have to be rezoned to a different school because of it.” Duvall said the school impact study will show the potential effects the apartment building would have on Buffalo Ridge.
She pointed out that the Campbell County School District does own land to the west, off of Southern Drive, that has been earmarked for an elementary school. It would be up to the district, however, to decide when to pull the trigger on that, she added. “It’s not that I don’t want more housing in the community of Gillette, that’s not the case,” Clary said.
“But I think the location is wrong.” This story was published on August 29, 2023.