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Lawrence County Republicans Extend Regulatory Uncertainty for Canyon Mine

Last updated on 2013.01.28

Here is the most impressive part of the Lawrence County Commission's decision yesterday to delay its approval of the Deadwood Standard Project:

The Lawrence County Commission is made up of five Republicans. Wealthy businessmen, including tourism icon and DSP partner Ted Hustead, told these commissioners that building this gold mine just over the rim of Spearfish Canyon is a matter of jobs, high wages, and economic development over the "ludicrous" (Hustead's word) objections of a very small minority of Spearfish Canyon homeowners. Proponents spoke from a position of strength, advocating an industry with a deep and cherished history in Lawrence County.

And those five Republicans said... not yet. Commissioner Daryl Johnson validated the environmentalists' Precautionary Principle, saying that if he had to make a final decision right now, he'd vote not to allow the mine, because the Deadwood Standard Project has not met its burden to prove the mine will not harm Spearfish Canyon. When the company reps pushed for a decision timeline so they could assure their investors, the commissioners dug in, saying they would decide when they felt they had enough information, not according to some arbitrary or rushed timeline.

The Lawrence County Commission made two formal decisions yesterday. First, it officially waived, per DSP's request, its own statutory requirement to act on any conditional use permit application within 45 days. Then it officially said that it would not make a final decision on the application until the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has studied the project and issued its report and recommendation... which DENR's Mike Cepak told the commissioners would likely take fourteen months.

Lawrence County Commissioners made a really hard choice between immediate economic gain and environmental protection... or maybe they didn't. At the beginning of the meeting, the commission indicated that, since last July's meeting on the mine, they had received 19 letters in support of the Spearfish Canyon mine and 243 against.

So maybe, technically, yesterday's vote wasn't really a great blow for environmentalism over the GOP economy-über-alles mindset. Maybe it was just five elected officials doing what the people want.

That's still a victory. Nice work, fellas.

Update 09:05 MDT: Here's Derek Olson's KELO report. Watch for the handsome blogger in the green shirt! ;-)


  1. larry kurtz 2012.08.22

    Good eye, Cory: that's exactly the right call. Interesting that in the past the Steelworker's Union stood with Homestake, too. Spearfish and Lead came to violence over the moratorium vote in the 80's.

  2. larry kurtz 2012.08.22

    Recall that Sen. Adelstein said in an earlier thread that he had an interest in DSP and is also a principal partner in Latchstring and Spearfish Canyon Lodge.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.22

    Indeed, and Senator Adelstein (another good Republican) advocated again for the commission to hold off on any action until he could propose legislation in the 2013 session to tighten up bonding requirements and perhaps other issues. Proponents grumbled hard at the uncertainty of that suggestion... but essentially, Senator Stan got his way and plus a few more months of study time. Now let's see Senator Stan come through with a bill that passes muster!

  4. Les 2012.08.22

    I am proud to be both ludicrous and arrogant in supporting our canyon.

    This goes beyond tourism and jobs.

    Chairman Ewing, you showed me the type of individual I could support all the way to the mansion in Pierre. Thanks to commissioner Johnson also.

    Cory, thank you for your efforts here. I was not able to stay for the whole meeting and appreciate the coverage.

    A postscript for those calling the canyon folk names. We pay a 1.3 tax multiplier on our homes as compared to those outside our area. I'd say that gives us a little ownership down here.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.22

    Les, where does that tax multiplier come from? Is that just a calculation to recognize the value of prime property in the Canyon?

  6. Les 2012.08.22

    I had the assessor stop by to look at my property. A statement of hers was and I might've off a point or few, "in the canyon, the values are figured as out of the canyon and then hit with a 1.3 multiplier just because you are in the canyon."

    This type of taxation has been overthrown in California and that entity was ordered to reimburse retro. I hope our commissioners realize they already have a gold mine in the canyon.

  7. Les 2012.08.22

    The prime value is already reflected in the increased costs of property Cory. I would say it is there because someone thought they could get away with it and have.

    Few canyon owners are aware of it though.

    That is not my prime complaint. We get little to nothing from the county for our taxes. We do have what I think may be the only school in the state that receives no state aid due to our taxes.

  8. Justin 2012.08.22

    Surely a crude process, but aren't the houses in the canyon worth more?

    If the 1.3 was based on actual market transactions, it would seem apt.

  9. Les 2012.08.22

    I should have added the Lead Deadwood school district the
    last I knew didn't get state aid.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.22

    "already have a gold mine in Spearfish Canyon"—Fine turn of phrase, Les. Thanks for the explanation! Instead of this multiplier, couldn't they just look at market values from sale sin the canyon? Or are sales restricted or too infrequent in the canyon for accurate assessments? Or could that multiplier reflect the privilege of living in an environmentally sensitive area... or an area that is more expensive for the county to provide services to?

  11. Justin 2012.08.22

    Anything but market based data would be unfair, IMO. But that is the unfortunate side effect of SD's insistence on not having an income tax. They raise the assessments to whatever level they need to to say they didn't raise taxes.

  12. Les 2012.08.23

    I would think the 1.3 would be entirely fair if we received 1.3 times the services of the rest of the county.

    The theory of you live in a special place has been overturned in other parts of the country. The county already gets a bonus off us because our little cabin homes are taxed high because of their high value for the location.

    Again, my gripe, we don't get any services from the county to justify anything more than the same formula my family pays for their property on the creek inSpearfish.

    Now Lawrence County has an opportunity to rise to the level they have been taxing us at!

  13. Les 2012.08.23

    Darlene(lady that had told me of an adjustment factor) retired from Eq and the person in charge was not available today. I thought I'd get current info on the formula for canyon taxation. What I came up with as a possible explanation was they still use neighborhood laws in taxation. Such as, the corridor around a city could be thought of as a higher value and so adjusted with a multiplier to bring that area more into line with its city cousins.

    Ive never understood why they don't neighborhood the city to the price of its rural cousins, darn it all.

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