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Tempers Flare Over Campground Stay Issue

October 27, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

Two Sioux Falls, S.D., city councilors got into a dispute during a public hearing Monday (Oct. 26), and one of them walked out of the meeting.

The dispute was triggered when several people said they learned last week that the city is evicting them from a campground in western Sioux Falls, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

One man broke down in tears when he asked for more time.

The argument between councilors Kermit Staggers and Bob Litz came during a Land Use Committee meeting, of which Staggers is chairman. The group, which included about 20 residents, was discussing whether there are regulations in the city that are too burdensome for businesses and residents.

Several people who live in the Westwick Motel and Campground complained that the city is forcing them to move their campers and recreation vehicles to another site.

Litz accused Staggers of “planting” the people in the meeting. Staggers denied the accusation and told Litz that he would have him “personally removed” if he ever made it again.

“If you want me to leave, Mr. Chairman, I’d be happy to,” Litz said. He gathered his papers and walked out.

Earlier, Litz accused Staggers of using the meeting to make a “political rant.” Staggers, who is expected to run for mayor next year, has frequently criticized the city’s planning and zoning department for over-regulating the city. He and Litz, who is a developer, frequently spar about the issue.

The city has had an ordinance restricting campers and RVs to a 30-day limit in campgrounds, but that ordinance has rarely, if ever, been enforced.

David Fritz, who owns Westwick, said he received a letter from the city last week ordering five campers out of the site. Westwick was a campground before being annexed into the city, and Fritz said he thought it was grandfathered in.

Six other people have decided not to move into the site because of the city’s action, Fritz said.

Ken Heesh, a disabled veteran who uses oxygen 24 hours a day to breathe, said he was one of the residents being forced to leave. He didn’t understand why.

“The question I have to ask is, where do you guys want me to go? There’s nothing wrong with living in my RV. I have everything a homeowner does.”

When asked about the issue with Westwick, the city’s zoning enforcement manager declined to talk about it unless it was done in executive session – a meeting closed to the public.

“I’m not at liberty to put it out there and have the jury of public opinion discussed here,” Shawna Goldammer said.

Later, Goldammer suggested the issue could be resolved by asking the campers to move to different sites within Westwick rather than leaving the campground entirely.

Heesh replied: “Now does that really make sense? Come on. We’re all adults here.”

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