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SD Supreme Court divided on Rapid City access dispute

PIERRE, S.D.  — In a South Dakota Supreme Court ruling last week, owners of undeveloped property along a highway in Rapid City can’t be compensated for a taking after the state Department of Transportation installed a median that limited access.

The high court publicly released the opinion on Thursday. Justice Mark Salter of Sioux Falls wrote for the majority, upholding a decision from Circuit Judge Stacy Vinberg Wickre that found for the department and against Legacy Land Company, owner of the 26.3 acres along the north side of Catron Boulevard.

Justice Janine Kern of Rapid City disagreed with the court’s four other justices. She filed a dissent that said the dispute should be sent back for further action because material issues of fact remained unresolved about whether the median substantially impaired access to the Legacy property along the route, also known as US16B. She said Legacy clearly envisioned commercial development of the property and the effects of the median should be judged against that intended use.

Catron Boulevard previously was a two-lane highway that permitted traffic from either direction to turn onto the Legacy property and traffic could leave in either direction. The median installed by the state Department of Transportation no longer allows eastbound traffic to turn left into the Legacy property, and traffic leaving the Legacy property can only turn right.

According to KELO News, a department official said in an affidavit filing that eastbound traffic could still reach the Legacy property by going past it to the median break and making a U-turn. Vehicles leaving the Legacy property could turn right, and if they wanted to go east, they could proceed 1,136 feet west to a median break and make a U-turn.

Legacy argued that larger commercial vehicles such as semi-tractor-trailer trucks couldn’t make U-turns in the median breaks and would need to find other ways to reach the property. The department didn’t dispute this, suggesting instead that those larger vehicles could make U-turns at the weigh station or re-route at Fifth Street and use existing streets.

Justice Salter in the majority opinion noted that the Legacy property was undeveloped. He concluded, “The construction of the median for Catron Boulevard undoubtedly affected the ease with which vehicles traveling east can access Legacy’s property. However, the undisputed material facts do not support Legacy’s claim that the median substantially impaired its right of access.”

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