From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 36 - November 29, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Harber’s Bloomfield stalled
Controversial development awaits full council, mayor
by Tiffany Turner

The public hearing for the proposed the Bloomfield annexation filled Pinedale Town Hall with neighbors and citizens (and even members of other boards) who were present to voice their concern for the impacts that such a large development would have on the town of Pinedale and the surrounding areas.

A little review

The Bloomfield, a proposed annexation of over 230 acres located directly north of the new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices and east of EhmanLane on the far west end of town (toward Jackson)has been a hot topic in the community, and for the past month has been in its advertising stage.

The face on the project, Matt Harber,who has been representing the Harber Family Trust (owners of the property) and Hay Maker Land Holding Co., LLC (which has the property under contract for development) has met with the community and different municipal faculties during this stage.

Although only the annexation of the property was on the town council’s agenda, Town Attorney Ed Wood explained that zoning would be determined during the annexation process (zoning and density also brought the most public comment) of which Monday night’s public hearing could lead to.

“The design we have come up with at this point is based on the current Town of Pinedale zoning and the restrictions of the property,” Harber said during the November community luncheon.

The currentzoning proposal includes 46 acres of commercial development, 36.8 for a school campus, 38 acres for single and multi-family dwellings, 6.1 acres to be used as an RV park, 44.7 acres zoned for mobile and manufactured homes, 40.4 acres for apartments and condominiums and 18.83 acres of open space.

According to Harber’s explanatory pamphlet, estimated unit numbers have been determined based on the current proposed zoning ( see chart above) to be completed over a 10-to 15-year period (although market conditions and town requirements will ultimately determine the length of time and actual units)(see chart).

Harber said this diversity would help them offer a more affordable housing solution so more people can afford to be homeowners.

Attainability, sustainability versus density

Much of the public commentary was centered on this proposed density and what it would do to the area west of Pinedale and to Pinedale in general.

Carmel Kail, a member of the Sublette County planning and zoning board spoke with the council on the density matter and brought with her several graphs showing trends for home owner ship and lodging needs.

“As with everything, I am trying to get an understanding of the long run,” Kail said. “Single family homes are the big demand in the long run.”

This mixed with the fact that single family homes are one of the smallest proposed districts for the Bloomfield, made Kail a “little nervous.” “Any shift in the proposal is going to have a profound impact on the actual,” Kail said in response to Harber’s reply that all of the zoning allows for single family if needed.

“We can put single family anywhere on the property as it currently sits,” Harber said.

According to Kail, the most recent census found 718 residences in the town of Pinedale and this proposal would add 920. Kail stressed the need to plan for what will come along with the current need.

“The ramifications are pretty serious,” Kail said. “I guess it is one of those, if you build it they will come, if you don’t they won’t thing. Single family and lots of rentals is what the market will support.”

Harber assured Kail that he understood her worries, but he was attempting to “create a supply of different products that aren’t presently available in Pinedale.” “There are single family homes in town,” Harber added. “It’s the void between nothing and the single family home we want to fill.”

Harber agreed that everyone wanted to see the longevity for the town taken into consideration, and that was his hopes in providing the different options in the development. Not everyone, he said, could afford “the American dream of a single family home.”

A homeowner from a neighboring subdivision further up Ehman Lane added that she would like to see some kind of buffer set up between the already existing homes with two or more acres and the apartments and condominiums.

“Most of us bought out there because we wanted a little space,” she said. “To look down at 950 dwellings…it is not appealing to us.”

Neighbors of the proposal requested that the density be cut in half or that a strict number of homes bordering their subdivisions be determined.

Kail requested that there be dedicated R-1 zoning in the subdivision to ensure single family homes. Harber explained that in decreasing the density, his hopes of providing affordable housing would be dashed. “Cutting the numbers will decrease attainability,” Harber said.

Mark Eatinger of Rio Verde Engineering, who has working with Harber on the development, agreed that the density was necessary in order to keep costs low. “Getting town water and sewer to the property won’t be cheap,” Eatinger said. “Spreading (the cost) out amongst more lots will help share the cost.”

Jeffrey Jacquet, a socioeconomic analyst for Sublette County and the municipalities within it, spoke in favor of the proposal.

“I think it’s a lot ,but the nice thing about it, he’s talking about a 10- to 15-year period,” Jacquet said. “It does represent a chance for the town to do (development) right.”

Jacquet said compared to many of the developments the council and planning and zoning (P&Z)tables, Harber has worked hard to ensure he was working with the town and taking trends and the market into consideration.

Pinedale P&Z chair Paul Rock disagreed. “I’m certain you can see how any reasonable person could disprove everything you just said,” Rock said to Jacquet.

Rock felt there are zoning problems within the proposal, traffic and parking could become and issue and that many other items were being ignored that would greatly impact the community.

Problem spots

Another neighbor to the development questioned Harber about the strict covenants he claims will be placed on the property and how they will be enforced.

“As far as people coming to town, they’re going to keep coming,” she said. “But, for us, (the covenants) are now up to the Homeowners’ Association to take care of... I don’t even know who our developer was.”

Harber assured the neighbor that the covenants would be enforced. “Basically, like what you just said except we’ll take it a step further,” Harber said. “There’s a property management company that actually enforces that.” “There’s also enforcement by the town for the town ordinances,” he added.

For council member Gary Heuck, one of his biggest concerns within the proposal was the trailer park. According to Heuck, many concerned

citizens had approached him about the park and most were not in favor of a mobile home park within town limits. “The biggest concern they have is tha ttrailer park,” Heuck said. “You’ll do that first and it may end there.”

Heuck said members of the community he spoke to fear that after the mobile home went in, the development of the property would end. Harber, who assured Heuck that the Bloomfield in its entirety was planned to be finished, the apartments and park would simply be started first.

“The apartments that will be started at roughly the same time will just take a year to be completed,” Harber said. “If the town doesn’t want (the park)they can certainly scrap it–but, there is a strong need for it.”

I’m in favor of the trailer park,” said council member Nylla Kunard, who was acting chair since Mayor Steve Smith was absent from the meeting. “I think it can be handled and can be done well... and people need it.”

“Prior to the second reading, these things need to be firmed up,” Wood said. “It is important that each party know where the other stands.”

The decision

With council member David Hohl and Mayor Steve Smith absent from the Nov. 26 meeting, the council chose not to make a decision and hold the first reading, the amendments and ordinance changes that would decide whether or not the Bloomfield would be annexed into the town of Pinedale. The first reading will take place at the Dec. 10 town council meeting. At that point, the town will decide whether or not it would like to incorporate the proposal.

“I thought the council was smart in waiting until the full council and mayor are present to move forward with the first reading,” Harber said after the meeting. “I thought the meeting went very well. The concerns that were voiced are issues we are aware of and will be working with the town to solve.”

“It has been our philosophy from the beginning to work as closely with the town as possible to better understand the needs and wants of the town,” he added. “Our entire design is based on the conversations we have had and research we have done. Of course, we can never please everyone, but we are very open to the ideas and solutions people have to make this project better.

We have appreciated those who have come to talk to us in the various forums we have held and the input we are receiving. This will be a long road, so I am glad we are moving in the right direction.”

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