HURON — Huron voters overwhelmingly approved the rezoning of approximately 10 acres in the Southtown Addition, in a special election on Tuesday.
By a margin of 1,977 to 465, the rezoning referendum was affirmed by the voters, paving the way for an $8 million apartment and townhouse development, which will be called WheatGrass Village.
"Voting went very smoothly today," said Paullyn Carey, Huron City Finance Officer. "The turnout was wonderful, especially for a special election." The referendum vote was the only measure on the ballot.
Tuesday's special election brings to a close the question regarding the rezoning of the parcel of land that will exist at the corner of 24th Street and Idaho Ave.
Earlier this year, the Huron City Commission had approved the ordinance to rezone the site, after Eagle Construction of Sioux Falls expressed the wish to build there. Previously the land had been zoned as residential, but the vote by the commission had changed it to multi-family.
The commission decision was challenged by Bob Jones and Todd Smith, property owners in the area, who took out petitions to refer the matter to a public vote.
The Vote Yes For Huron committee thanked those who checked Yes on their ballots. Committee co-chair Rich Bragg said, “This vote is a true turning point for Huron’s future.”
Bragg also offered a special thanks to everyone who placed signs in their yards, wrote letters, posted on Facebook, and talked about it with their friends and neighbors.
“It made the difference!” said Bragg. “We anxiously look forward to the great strides that the Southtown Development will be experiencing over the next 5-10 years."
Steve Boote, the owner of Eagle Construction, has said that if the referendum vote was positive, he would be able to begin construction on the apartments in a matter of weeks.
Boote has plans to build one, two and three-bedroom apartments, as well as three-and-four bedroom townhouses, creating 81 living areas in what is Phase 1 of the project.
David McGirr, co-chair of the committee with Bragg, said he is excited for upcoming residential and commercial development in Huron. "Thanks to Huron’s forward thinking voters, the long vacant heart of the Southtown Development will be transformed from a blighted failure into the major hub for Huron's growth."
Proponents of the plan said that the approval will pave the way for further development in the area, which will see its infrastructure - including several streets, two cul-de-sacs, as well as curb and gutter, water, sewer and storm sewer - financed by a Tax Increment Financing plan.
McGirr noted that in addition to the WheatGrass Village project returning the land to private ownership, having it developed, and putting it back on the tax rolls, there is a bigger picture to the outcome.
"The construction of WheatGrass Village keeps the momentum going that the City and GHDC generated in the commercial section of the development over the last couple of years," said McGirr. "WheatGrass Village will spur further residential and commercial development."
Boote said earlier that he believes construction will take approximately 10 months to complete. He expects to use nearly all local subcontractors on the project.
Carey said that the city commission will do the official canvass of Tuesday's vote at next Monday's regular meeting.
"Once the canvass is completed," Carey added, "the ordinance goes into effect the next day."