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Union County Blocks Hyperion Rezoning with High Fees on Local Landowners

Not one of Hyperion's promises of great economic development ever materialized. But now, a year after the Dallas dreamers gave up their refinery proposal, Union County residents may pay a price to undo the regulatory contortions Hyperion wrote into their local law books.

Peter Harriman reports that Union County residents whose land lies in the "planned development" zone created to host the Hyperion refinery now have to pay $500 to dezone their land back to the way it was:

In December 2007, Hyperion sought rezoning on about 3,300 acres in Union County to build the energy center. A few months later it was successful, and in 2008 the county shifted the zoning from agricultural use to a new planned development zone.

This cost Hyperion $500. Dennis Henze, Union County zoning director, determined the fee based on the theory that since Hyperion held options on all the land it wanted rezoned, it should be considered one parcel even though it was owned by about a dozen separate entities.

...John Slattery, an Elk Point lawyer, is seeking to pull together a coalition of affected landowners to pursue rezoning.

“I assume every landowner is interested in looking at it. I would guess most want it moved back from planned development to agricultural zoning. But I do not want to approach them until I can answer the obvious question. What will it cost?” Slattery said.

That should be $500 per landowner, Henze said [Peter Harriman, "Rebound from Hyperion Comes with Cost in Union County," that Sioux Falls paper, 2013.12.07].

Until the Union County Commission restores the original zoning to those 3,300 acres, current landowners can't legally build a house or agricultural improvements without going through a variance process. Unless Union County simply chooses to ignore its own rules (not a good option for any responsible elected body), Hyperion's legacy will cause those residents perpetual bureaucratic obstacles to improvement and enjoyment of their property.

But asking local landowners to cough up thousands of dollars to undo a process that out-of-state millionaire speculators wrought for $500 is absurd. There is no complicated drafting or legal consulting required. It would take ten minutes and two meetings for County Auditor Carol Klumper to pull the 2007 zoning map from the file cabinet, hand it to the county commission, and have them read and second-read a motion to return Union County zoning to its pre-Hyperion status.

The only reason I can see that Union County would want to maintain this financial obstacle to rezoning would be to deter residents from taking away the palette upon which Hyperion could return to paint its financial fantasies.

And as I understand it, Hyperion still maintains a main-street office in Elk Point. Hmm....


  1. Lynn G. 2013.12.08

    I was living out of state at the time but am so glad that refinery was never built. Living downwind from that refinery would have been cancer alley like Texas City, Cottage Grove and other cities located near Refineries and chemical plants besides other negative environmental and health effects.

  2. Roger Elgersma 2013.12.08

    I would guess that those land owners got a rather good price for that option and could easily pay the fee. If the county wants to let them all have a group plan and rezone it all in one vote for five hundred would be ok also.

  3. Rick 2013.12.09

    Mike Rounds should not receive a single vote in Union or Clay counties for this disaster that he created and led. Maybe his $9 million campaign treasury should pay back the county for this catastrophe instead of taxpayers. Hyperion was a hoax. It never had a prayer of getting a $10 billion bailout from the federal government, and I don't think there are that many dumb people in Red China who would send $500,000 each to bankroll a so-called "green refinery" in South Dakota.

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