Ken Young, AICP, and director of community development, doesn’t use the word “boom” in regards to his city’s recent development but rather prefers to call it continued strong growth.
“Several factors would be involved, of course,” said Young. “One of note would be the announcement last year of the new bomber testing and training at nearby Ellsworth Air Force, which will create new jobs and development activity over the coming several years. Another is a response to a strong need for more housing in the area.”
Rapid City’s Vicki L. Fisher, planning manager of the Current Planning Division/Department of Community Development, applauds the continuing growth.
“We are excited to see the number of residential and commercial lots that are anticipated throughout our community either directly or indirectly related to the expansion at Ellsworth Air Force Base,” said Fisher.
She added, “We have been receiving master plans for large acreage developments, particularly in the eastern portion of the city. To date, the accumulated master plan(s) show an excess of 2,000 additional residential lots to be developed in phases over the next 10 years. The residential lots include a diversification of housing for single-family, townhome and apartment development. Along with the residential development, the master plans include areas around arterial streets with future commercial and/or industrial development to provide services to the growing residential areas. This is an exciting time for Rapid City. Even with the health concerns gripping our nation, city staff is here to ensure timely reviews and approvals for these projects.”
The city is the county seat of Pennington County and was named after Rapid Creek, where the settlement developed. It is located on the eastern slope of the Black Hills mountain range. Some of its tourist attractions include South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rushmore Mall and Berlin Wall in Memorial Park. It also boasts Watiki Waterpark and Bear Country USA.
Community development highlights in 2019 include:
• Total building permits issued were 3,974 — up 7.2% over 2018
• Total permits valuation was $330,164,418, making it the fourth year it was over $300 million
• Fifty-four new subdivision plats approved, creating 244 new residential lots
• New developments, including downtown apartments, Ascent Innovation business incubator and Kmart site redevelopment
• Ten transportation studies and plans through the area metropolitan planning organization
• Ten new projects funded through community development block grants for housing and services
There was also a permits system upgrade with the city’s TRAKiT permitting system being updated to provide many benefits, making services quicker and easier, including:
• Online payment and some self-issued permits
• Digital submittal and review of permits and plans
• Reduced cost to all parties by not requiring paper plans
• Continued public access to TRAKiT information
More of the 2019 banner year included expansion of residential, commercial and industrial development throughout the community. This was comprised of 120 platting applications to potentially create 926 lots. Fifty-four final plats were recorded creating 244 residential lots, 26 commercial lots and 11 industrial lots.
Currently, new downtown apartments are developing and will enhance livability including:
• Mixed-use project ability of the downtown, including 54 loft apartments at Sixth and St. Joseph streets to be developed by Lloyd Companies
• Four-story mixed-use building with apartments at East Boulevard and Kansas City Street
• Redevelopment of the old Imperial Inn site on St. Joseph Street to include residential areas
On long-range planning, significant projects are planned for 2020:
• Develop a strategic housing plan
• Develop and adopt ordinances that implement the strategic housing plan
• Continue the planning process to update the historic context document and historic preservation plan
• Online improvements to Plan Rapid City, the city’s comprehensive plan, to create a more user-friendly, interactive resource
• Update the 1998 annexation policy
• Update administrative processes of the tax increment financing program
• Complete the promenade corridor study
• Digitize/map all Rapid Transit routes and stops, enable access of Rapid Map
• Create a sidewalk connectivity map
• Work with public works and the traffic division to obtain and implement permanent traffic count stations
• Create a mapping database for master plans
Rapid City Code Enforcement Division had 1,436 cases opened in 2019. Of these cases, 1,155 — or 80% of the total — involved abatements; this included snow and ice removal, debris cleanup, mowing and trimming and dead tree removal.
Code enforcement accomplishments:
• Assisted in completing three demolitions of substandard derelict houses and structures
• Continued focus on proactive efforts on the city core and main thoroughfares
• Number of open cases were down just slightly from 2018 even with an intense snow and growing season
• Continued community outreach through the media and presentations. This may be contributing to more public awareness of city ordinances and lower infraction numbers
According to Ted Johnson, city engineer, the potential development of property and creation of platted lots and building sites will require the extension of some services.
“The city has adequate water and wastewater plant and production capacity to serve the identified development areas, but the new developments will require the installation of water and sewer mains, storm sewer improvements and street improvements to serve the corresponding development area,” said Johnson.
“Creation of the developments also needs to account for and include the installation of private utilities, including electric power, natural gas and communications infrastructure. Installation of the noted public improvements is driven by the extent of the development and is generally the responsibility of the developer and/or owner of the development. All improvements are required to comply with the city’s approved design criteria and standards to protect the health and safety of the residents and population.”
The city has accomplished a lot in the space of just a year. According to Fisher, the building growth began at the start of 2019 and has continued at a steady pace throughout the year.
“In anticipation of this growth, public works staff has had to evaluate and prepare for the increased demand and need for city utilities, drainage containment and street construction(s),” noted Fisher.
“As I previously mentioned, it is anticipated that much of this development being proposed is to prepare for the needs associated with the expansion of Ellsworth Air Force Base. It is also fair to say, that a significant percentage of the proposed development was already being prepared by the developers before the announcement of the expansion and the timing for the submittals fell within 2019.”
The city has an adapted comprehensive plan that identifies appropriate existing and future uses throughout it and within 3 miles of its city limits, Fisher said.
“When receiving master plan(s) for potential future development of an area, community development staff works with the developers to ensure compliance with the plan,” said Fisher. “In some instances, this includes the creation of public lots to secure future community service sites for such things as future fire stations, parks and utility lots.”
At the time of this interview, Fisher was the only person in the office and gave a quick nod to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Many staff members are able to work from home due to the nature of our duties,” said Fisher. “We have requested that they do so to limit the number of staff in the building. It is working very well. We use teleconferencing and conference call availability to conduct business. Our goal is to ensure that we accept and process all permits and applications in the same timeframe as before COVID-19. We have had to become creative on how we receive and share documents. The good news is that it is working!”