S.D. Supreme Court Ruling Positions Buffalo Chip to Become “First Town Built By Bikers For Bikers”

S.D. Supreme Court Ruling Positions Buffalo Chip to Become “First Town Built By Bikers For Bikers”

“Hello from the newest town in South Dakota… And likely the United States. Maybe even the entire world – Buffalo Chip, SD!”

So states an announcement in Sturgis Rider News, the Buffalo Chip’s in-house publication.

The announcement comes on the heels of a ruling yesterday by the South Dakota Supreme Court that reversed Circuit Court Judge Jerome Eckrich’s previous decision to deny the Buffalo Chip municipality status. The Buffalo Chip has been battling to be declared its own town for years but has received opposition from the city of Sturgis and nearby landowners.

According to reports in the Rapid City Journal, Meade County commissioners voted 3-2 in February 2015 to “allow the campground to move forward in its bid to become a town.” This was countered the next month when 56 landowners and the city of Sturgis filed an appeal with the Meade County Commission hoping it would “reconsider its decision allowing a vote to create a town on the Buffalo Chip Campground.” Voters had the final say though as months later they voted in favor of the commissioners’ decision.

This led to Eckrich’s final ruling in September 2016 against the Buffalo Chip becoming a town, issuing a 30-page document with 103 findings supporting his decision to deny it. One of those findings declared that the number of legal residents at the Buffalo Chip at the time of the commissioner’s initial vote was only 50 instead of the 100 required by law. But on January 25th the South Dakota Supreme Court released a 16-page statement reversing Eckrich’s decision.

“This is a huge economic development opportunity,” said Nyla Griffith, Media & Public Relations Director for the Sturgis Buffalo Chip. “It’s important from the standpoint that we want to remain genuine. We want to be able to continue to offer all of our guests the experience they’ve become accustomed to and even better. We’ve had so many businesses wanting to come and do business at the Buffalo Chip.”

The Buffalo Chip has long prided itself on autonomy. This autonomy would be challenged if the city of Sturgis annexed the Buffalo Chip as it would no longer be in control of its liquor licenses and signage and businesses would lose the advantage of dealing directly with the Buffalo Chip. The city’s desire to annex The Chip has been a topic of conversation for some time, in large part because it would allow the city to collect sales taxes from the Buffalo Chip.

The city of Sturgis issued this statement in regards to the Supreme Court’s ruling on its website.

“The South Dakota Supreme Court’s Conclusion in this matter is disappointing to the City of Sturgis and the landowners who have voiced concerns regarding the electoral integrity of this process. It is important to consider the Conclusion was not based on the 103 circuit court Findings of Fact but on the filing status only. The Supreme Court has stated that the only challenge to the incorporation of the Campground must be made by the State of South Dakota. Therefore, the City of Sturgis will call on the State of South Dakota to take action in addressing the numerous items within the original petition filed by the Buffalo Chip that were found to be erroneous by the circuit court in its 103 Findings of Fact.”