Thursday, June 23, 2016
By Kacie Svoboda
The Hill City Comprehensive Plan Survey from spring 2016 has been tabulated and the Black Hills Council of Local Governments is ready to push forward to the next step in the comprehensive plan process.
The survey was completed by 242 respondents — nearly 25 percent of its population — ranging in age from teenagers to seniors over age 60. Of those who were surveyed, 28.6 percent were 60 and over, 18.3 percent were 17 or younger, 14.7 percent were aged 50-59, 13.8 percent were 40-49, 12.1 percent were 30-39, 5.8 percent were aged 21-29 and 2.7 percent were 18- to 20-year-olds.
The majority of the respondents live in Hill City year-round, 56.7 percent, while 33.5 percent live outside the city limits; 27.2 percent work in Hill City year-round and 4 percent live in Hill City part of the year.
The survey sought to elicit ideas on what Hill City does well, what it could do better and what new avenues could be pursued. For example, respondents were asked what they loved about Hill City, what improvements would make Hill City better and to name the biggest issues facing Hill City over the next 10 years.
The survey results yielded many interesting and varied possible directions for the city. The results showed repeating concerns for the availability of affordable housing and employment and business opportunities. Respondents stated that it is difficult to start a business in Hill City due to the high cost and low availability of property and the focus on seasonal economic activity. Employment is limited to mainly seasonal and low-paying jobs and many survey takers felt a greater focus on year-round activities would help create more job opportunities. Respondents also found there was a “serious lack of available housing for low to middle income people.”
Some of the survey results should come as no surprise. The renovation of Main Street’s sidewalks was listed time and again as a necessary Hill City improvement, as was the need for well maintained public restrooms. Many who completed the survey also commented on Hill City’s need to clean up the unsightly junk at the edges of town and address issues at the Old Hill City Road and Main Street intersection. Several respondents also brought up the town’s many narrow and unpaved city streets and the need for additional parking downtown.
These recurring issues cropped up again when respondents were asked to choose two community facilities, services or enhancements to add to Hill City. Downtown restrooms and a community center topped the list at 42.1 percent and 41.2 percent respectively. A recycling service, 35.6 percent, and the paving of gravel roads, 34.3 percent, followed close behind.
Some more surprising survey responses were the need for better maintenance and upgrading of Hill City’s parks and a desire to see more non-tourist centric events. This disconnect between tourist and resident activities can be seen in the 59 percent of respondents who rated Hill City as an excellent place to visit compared to the 44 percent who rated it as an excellent place to live.
The next step in the comprehensive plan will be the visioning meetings on Tuesday, June 28 from 3 - 4 p.m. or 6 - 7 p.m. at the Hill City Senior Citizens Center. The public is invited to attend and ice cream treats will be provided.
The purpose of these meetings will be to narrow the survey results and establish a consensus about what the community’s priorities are Hill City’s future. These meetings will also look to provide a template for how these priorities will be achieved.
“This will be a great opportunity to think big about Hill City and help shape your community’s future,” commented Lysann Zeller, Black Hills Council community development planner/GIS specialist.
Zeller and City Administrator Brett McMacken, stressed the importance of the community members taking time out of their busy summer schedules to attend these meetings.
The summary of the survey results can be found online at MyHillCitySD.com/Survey or hard copies can be viewed at the Hill City Public Library and Hill City Hall.