After heated debate the Sioux Falls City Council approves mixed-use parking ramp

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Tuesday night the Sioux Falls City Council voted 6 to 1 to approve a project to build a $50 million mixed-use parking ramp.

The 13 story ramp would include more than 500 public parking spaces, 120 hotel rooms and nearly 40,000 square feet of commercial space. $30 million will come from a private investment and the remaining $20.6 million will come from user fees.

The topic of the mixed use parking ramp has caused heated debate between city council members and Tuesday night that debate was reignited.

In order to approve the project, the council had to pass several different agenda items.

Tuesday marked the first time council members heard public comment on this topic. For nearly an hour people came forward sharing their thoughts on just the first agenda item.

“With this parking ramp, parking will be even easier than before by nearly doubling the number of public parking spaces within a block of the downtown core. This will make downtown an easier place to access for shoppers and diners,” Downtown Sioux Falls Inc. Joe Batcheller said.

The mixed-use ramp will be a public/private partnership. The names of all the private investors have not been released. This is something councilor Theresa Stehly has voiced concerns about for months and members said they were also worried about that.

“I’m thinking that, you know, if we have contracts and we’re not allowed to know who is involved in those contracts, who is going to benefit from those contracts,” one Sioux Falls resident said.

But members of city staff said steps have been taken to make sure there isn’t a conflict interest.

“City employees and their spouses are barred from having a financial interest in this development. This is spelled out in multiple locations throughout the development agreement and lease,” Community Development Director Daren Ketcham says

After nearly an hour of public comment on the first agenda item, public comment was ended even though there were still people waiting to speak to the council.

Because of that, Councilor Pat Starr tried to abstain from that first vote, but he was told he could not, so he left the room and didn't return for the votes on the mixed use parking ramp.

“We didn’t hear from the developer of the project. I knew there were other people who called me during the course of the day who wanted a chance to address the council and we chose not to hear from them. And I didn’t want to participate. If the constituents voices can't be heard my voice shouldn't be heard either,” Starr said.

Even though Starr was against voting for the mixed use ramp he said now that it has been approved, it’s time to move forward and look ahead to how this could benefit downtown.

Before the vote took place, Councilor Christine Erickson told KSFY News the parking ramp will address a need for more parking spaces in downtown while generating more than $340,000 dollars in property tax revenue for the city.

Construction is expected to begin in the spring.