Parking lot use riles county

By: 
Jason Ferguson

Booming business at a downtown Custer business is causing a parking lot headache for the county.
At the June 23 meeting of the Custer County Commission, the commissioners discussed the use of the county courthouse parking lot by Adventure Rentals, which, among other things, rents a fleet of UTVs to visitors. The business is located at the corner of 5th Street and Mt. Rushmore Road, with the rear of the business abutting the courthouse parking lot. That, some with the county said, is causing an issue, as the business sometimes uses the parking lot as a place for its employees and customers to park, as well as a place for the business to park UTVs after washing them, when moving them, etc.
This, they contend, can cause a potential for damage to cars in the parking lot as well as deprive county employees and the public looking to do business at the courthouse of a place to park.
Some with the county said the issue seems to be getting worse and county department heads met to discuss the issue, throwing out the ideas of two-hour parking, labeled parking, etc., but any of those ideas would have to be enforced, presumably by the Custer County Sheriff’s Office. The parking lot already has a sign at the entrance saying it is for courthouse parking during certain hours and days.
Commissioner Craig Hindle said county attorney Susan Anderson discussed the issue twice last year with Adventure Rentals owner Alex Niemann.
County state’s attorney Tracy Kelley said the City of Custer has also approached Neimann about the business, as water from the power washer the business uses to clean its UTVs runs across 5th Street to Washington Street before eventually ending up in French Creek. There is concern about sediment, oil, fuel, etc., that could be in the water, as well as potential damage to 5th Street from the frequent stream of water crossing it.
Hindle said the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources said because the business is already in place, there isn’t much that can be done from the water standpoint.
“When they first started, they were washing only a few UTVs. Now they are washing a lot. It’s basically a car wash,” Hindle said.
The county’s issue with the parking lot is separate form the city’s issue with the water, however.
“I think our problem is signage. We don’t have very good signage out there,” Hindle said.
Kelley said it doesn’t matter what signage is up if there is no enforcement.
“You can put some things in place that have some penalties,” she said, adding Pennington County has an officer dedicated to enforcing the two-hour parking limit at its courthouse’s parking lot. “You don’t have the staff in the sheriff’s office to do that.”
County employee Ron Remley said there are times county employees go into the parking lot and it has been taken over by UTVs. He said he just bought a new car and worries it will get dinged.
“I just don’t agree with the idea that their business can’t contain their business to their property and have to drive all through and around our cars,” he said. “I have UTVs. I’m not against them. I’m not against their business. It’s a good business. A lot of people come to the area to explore the area on UTVs. I don’t disagree with that at all. Their use of our parking lot for their overflow is putting vehicles at risk.”
Remley relayed a story of a younger employee of the business coming what he said was “dangerously close” to hitting a courthouse employee’s car with a UTV.
“I just feel their operation should be contained on their property like every other business in town,” he said.
Commissioner Mark Hartmann asked if there is a camera trained on the parking lot in case a UTV hits a vehicle.
“I do agree it would be nice if they were accountable if they did run into something,” he said. Hartman said he felt Niemann should have been invited to the meeting if this issue was going to be discussed.
“He’s been part of several discussions,” Hindle said. “I think we need to figure out what to do first. They can argue the fact they are a taxpayer and can use the parking lot. Well, let’s go ahead and set them an office up downstairs, too. How far do you want to push that?”
Discussion was held as to whether the UTVs in the parking lot could hinder sheriff’s office response to calls, whether vehicles could be towed away and whether the parking lot should have better signage saying the courthouse is for courthouse business only during a weekday. In the end, the commission decided to move ahead with better signage to start with.
Kelley said she agrees that Niemann needs to be part of the discussion, but added he also needs to be a part of the solution and not “just thumb his nose” at the discussion.
“It’s great we have this business. It’s great for the town. Everyone needs to be a good neighbor and work together,” Kelley said. “It’s not their personal parking lot. That’s what they are using it as.”
In other news from the June 23 meeting, the commission:
• Learned Desperado Ranch recently subdivided and as part of that gifted a nine-acre lot to the county as a place to help with possible fire readiness expansion, a place to fill up with water. etc. The lot is next to the Southern Black Hills Water System tower and could lead to expansion of Argyle Volunteer Fire Department. The owners of the ranch requested the county sign for it as a charitable donation partnership. The commission voted to accept the donation.
• Voted to have chairman Jim Lintz sign an authorization with the Forest Service to spray Buffalo Gap National Grassland property that has noxious weeds potentially spreading to adjacent private property.

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