SB 157 undercuts local control

Local citizens deserve a chance to be fully informed and weigh in on proposed development in their communities.

Senate Bill 157, brought at the request of Gov. Noem and advanced in the Senate, erodes local control by restructuring the county zoning and appeals process in a way that removes the requirement of a public hearing for projects with special permitted use. Public hearings are one of the few avenues stakeholders have to provide comments to local officials on proposed projects, and they need to be preserved.

In addition to removing the requirement for special permit hearings, the bill lowers the vote threshold to approve a conditional use permit from two-thirds to a simple majority and overhauls the permit appeal process, limiting the ability of residents to be active participants in decisions that affect their communities.

The unique insight community members and landowners can provide at hearings offers guidance for developers and local elected officials on a range of issues, such as improving the siting and design of projects, ensuring they are developed in a way that works best for a community, and avoiding unnecessary impacts.

It is essential that South Dakotans retain the local control that assists them in shaping the future of their communities. While we understand the importance of new development, it should not come at the expense of citizens having a voice in the process.

We urge the House to vote against this harmful bill and instead work to include all South Dakotans in local decision making.