Buffalo Chip takes quest to become town before Supreme Court

Legal Events

The South Dakota Supreme Court will once again hear oral arguments in Buffalo Chip's quest to become a municipality, after a lower court ruled in February that the popular motorcycle rally campground near Sturgis must be dissolved as a town.

The Rapid City Journal reports that oral arguments are scheduled for Sept. 30.

Attorneys for the state have argued that Buffalo Chip was improperly incorporated in 2015 because it had fewer than 100 legal residents or 30 voters, as was required by law at the time. The city of Sturgis has also opposed Buffalo Chip's incorporation for years.

Buffalo Chip officials have argued that the area had more than 30 voters.

Kent Hagg, an attorney representing the campground, said the case could come down to the difference between the words "and" and "or." He said the law in place in 2015 required municipalities to have at least 100 residents "or" 30 voters. In 2016, the state Legislature changed the law to require municipalities to have at least 100 residents "and" 45 voters.

Hagg said about 53 voters listed the Buffalo Chip as their address of record in 2015.

The campground fills with thousands of visitors during the Sturgis motorcycle rally, but has few, if any, year-round residents.

In February, Fourth Circuit Judge Gordon Swanson ruled that the town must be dissolved. The city has said in a statement that the judge's decision was based on common sense and plain language of the law. "It would not make sense for the Legislature to authorize the incorporation of a municipality with no residents."

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