Small Association Sponsors Growth Study

The 58-member East Central South Dakota REALTORS® used a $15,000 Smart Growth Action Grant from the REALTOR® Party to bring in a planning expert to help the city of Brookings govern its own growth with a wise eye to the future. 

The city’s mayor had recently established an affordable housing task force and a Comprehensive Master Plan Advisory Committee, both of which had REALTORS® on board. “Naturally, REALTORS® are deeply invested in this because it directly affects their livelihood. But they are also, by definition, people who are involved and invested in their communities and want to see them thrive and prosper,” says RaeAnn Thompson, the association’s executive.

The association used its Smart Growth Action Grant, which it matched by 10 percent, to commission a study from Janet Tharp, a Dallas-based urban and regional planner, who traveled twice to Brookings for the project. Her first trip, in June, was an information-gathering mission, during which she toured the city by car and met with numerous city stakeholders; city and county elected and appointed officials; representatives from the university, the school board, the local utility companies, and affordable housing interest groups; and builders, developers, and business advocates. Thompson was able to arrange these encounters easily. “Everyone was more than receptive to the idea, and agreed that the timing was perfect. The housing situation really is a top priority here,” she says.

When Tharp returned in August, she presented a report that shed light on issues and challenges that Brookings is facing and offered examples of possible solutions she’d seen succeed elsewhere. “She pointed out the need for what she called ‘missing middle homes,’” notes Thompson, referring to more compact housing arrangements that are in short supply in Brookings, such as townhomes, cottages and courtyard homes. The suggestion of an architectural design contest was well received, she added, and developers are investigating the concept of “tiny homes.” The report also emphasized the need to capitalize on the city’s distinctive downtown district and create more mixed-use development there to attract millennials who value walkability. 

From conversations with members who serve on the city’s advisory committee and the Affordable Housing Task Force, Thompson knows that the study is a great asset to Brookings at a critical point in its evolution. At the meeting where the report was presented, the mayor recognized the vision and support of the REALTORS®. For more on Smart Growth Action Grants, visit

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