Volume 7, Number 45 - January 31, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Bloomfield Tabled Once Again
The Bloomfield annexation once again took a very controversial limelight at Monday night’s Pinedale Town Council meeting. Once the floor was opened to public comments and concerns, a foray of hands took to the air. While many private citizens were there to share both concerns and support for the project, three of the most vocal protestors also lend their services to boards in both municipal and county governments.
The Bloomfield: a quick review...
After months of public meetings during the proposed annexation’s advertising period, the third and final reading of Bloomfield annexation was up for discussion at the Jan. 28 Pinedale Town Council meeting.
The Bloomfield, a proposed annexation of over 230 acres located directly north of the new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices and east of Ehman Lane 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 of the project, Matt Harber, representing property owners Harber Family Trust, and HayMaker Land Holding Co., LLC (HLH), which has the property under contract for development, has met with the community and different municipal faculties during this stage.
The current zoning proposal includes 46 acres of commercial development, 36.8 for a school campus, 38 acres for single- and multi family dwellings, 6.1 acres for an RV park, 44.7 acres zoned for mobile and manufactured homes, 40.4 acres for apartments and condominiums and 18.83 acres of openspace.
How about no?
Paul Rock, the Town Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board Chairman, was the first to take the floor with his opinions.
“I speak for not just a majority ... but a super majority of (the P&Z) Commission,” Rock said. “This will affect the town long after your temporary occupancy of Town Hall is over.”
Rock, along with fellow P&Z member John Fogerty, requested that the board not allow the master-plan zoning currently proposed for the property, but instead allow specific zoned areas and keep the remaining land zoned agricultural so that the future developer and landowners would be required to bring every new project before the P&Z board and town council. Rock said he considered the current master plan zoning to be giving “carte blanche” to the developers.
Fogerty cited the current Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Study (DSEIS) published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) concerning the production and development planned in the Pinedale Anticline and Jonah Field areas which are currently providing the most influx of workers that are keeping residences and motels full, and the number of employees that will be needed to keep the two gas fields functional throughout the years.
According to Fogerty, the DSEIS says workers needed in the fields will peak in 2009 and continually decrease through 2026. With the Bloomfield being a proposed 15-year development, Fogerty urged that not everything be zoned because it would leave the developers open to build anything meeting zoning guidelines within the property and with the predicted abrupt change in the structure of Pinedale, he felt determining the zoning now would not be prudent.
“We’re talking about a 240-acre parcel that can double the size of town,” Fogerty said.
When asked about the freedom given to the developer to determine what should and should not be built once zoning is in place, Town Attorney Ed Wood agreed that the developer would be able to build as long as the requirements laid out in the specific zone are met.
“The town would not have the right, and in my opinion the place, to tell (the developer) what to build,” Wood said.
One lady in the audience voiced her opinion that a lower-priced development coming into the community would be a “slap in the face” to those that have worked hard and paid the price to live in the Pinedale community.
Rock continued to comment that due to the increased need for sewer and water supply that annexation would assure the Bloomfield could have, he felt that it would not only be a drain on the current supplies but also the funding.
According to Rock, water and sewer are currently subsidized by a “general fund” from the town because the service does not pay for itself. Rock did not want to see this practice continued, as to him it would seem as though the current citizens would, in away, be subsidizing the development. Town Engineer Eugene Ninnie assured Rock that studies and plans were already underway to improve the public services system.
“You’re behind the times,” Ninnie said of Pinedale’s metering system. “You want more people to drive those costs down. Somebody has to be paying that bill. ...The more people, the less money.”
“I have yet to hear you give this the consideration it deserves,” Rock added. “I am very uncomfortable with your unanimity.”
Rock and Fogerty both felt that since the P&Z board only had three members present (with Fogerty at his first meeting) at the time that the annexation was passed, 2-1, at their meeting that the annexation proposal should have been sent back to the P&Z table.
“It was reiterated over and over ‘you’ll have the chance to guide it,’” Rock said.
Settle for a slow down...
Several members of the public spoke in opposition to the speed at which the development is being passed. These citizens felt that more time should be taken to consider the proposal, its different aspects and how they will affect the town and surrounding communities in the long haul.
Dave Vlcek, speaking as a private citizen familiar with the property, broached the topic of unfinished permits, including one from the Army Corps of Engineers concerning the wetlands on the property. “I am very pro-annexing,” Vlcek said. “But I think you’ve got the cart before the horse in this situation.”
Vlcek said he felt that the rush to get the project through was leading to poor planning, a conundrum facing the town already from past developments that many thought would improve the town.
“It was supposed to be wonderful – it’s not been so wonderful,” Vlcek said. “There’s a whole lot going on too quickly.”
Vlcek added that he saw the current Master Plan proposed for the property as more of a rough draft than anything else and requested that the town council take time to review all the necessary documents prior to finalizing the annexationas it currently stands.
“What’s the rush,” Vlcek asked the council. “There is a huge rush here and it makes me uneasy.”
Rock also joined the citizens urging a more cautious speed to the development, asking that the council wait for studies currently being done by the town regarding public services and traffic to be finished before making a final decision for the zoning of the Bloomfield.
Longtime resident Sally Mackey agreed. “Take time to delay this decision,” she said. “I thinki t’s time to slowdown and if it has merit, it will be accepted but people have real concerns right now. It doesn’t have to go through tonight.”
All for it...
Town Engineer Eugene Ninnie openly disagreed with the concerns that zoning the Bloomfield at this time was a bad idea. “Prezoning, as far as an engineering standpoint, makes a lot of sense,” Ninnie said.
Mayor Smith also felt that it was time to move forward with the decision. He somewhat chastised the P&Z board for coming to the council so late in the process, considering the annexation went before P&Z prior to coming to the town council.
“I appreciate your concerns and while legitimate ... it is the eleventh hour,” Smith said. “If you wanted the full body of the P&Z, you should have tabled it.”
Laurie Latta spoke in agreement with the mayor.
“I’m surprised these questions are being raised at this meeting,” Latta said. Latta said she saw the Bloomfield as a great opportunity for the Pinedale community and thought that the town would be worse off if they denied the Bloomfield. “You have someone here that actually wants to work with this town,” Latta added.
Forest Wakefield, owner of the Log Cabin Motel in Pinedale, agreed with Latta, seeing the Bloomfield as an opportunity for his business to bring in a workforce that could actually afford to live int he area. “I really support the affordability,” Wakefield said. “Right now, the workforce is only for the gas field.”
In Bloomfield’s defense...
Harber, having listened to public comment both for and against the development, rose to Harber explained that the need for having all things zoned prior to any work beginning is that it allows for cohesive, planned development including roads and pathways, and a symmetry of all the different building types to be incorporated into the development’s design. “To do it (zoning by parts) you end up with spot zoning,” Harber said. “Whereas this way, we can plan an actual community.”
As for the fear of what is to come, Harber said that as developers they are planning to work with the market and need, and have stated s oall along.
“If in seven years this turns out to be a bad idea – I’m going to tell you now, we are not going to be building any more houses,” Harber said. “We’ll make those adjustments as necessary.”
Harber reiterated that this has been a work in progress for several months and will continue to be a work in progress, dependent on many variables until the development is completely finished. “My door has been open for months,” Harber said. “It would have been nice if we can hear about these things before the actual meetings.”
The annexation agreement...
Due to the size of the annexation proposed, Wood felt it appropriate to draft an agreement between the town and HLH. This is the first of such agreements the town has entered into. The agreement covers important items in the annexation such as sewer and water (which the town guarantees no specific date when services will be provided to the Bloomfield and states that while the town currently has capacity to support the development, they make no guarantee that the capacity will be there forever), water rights, restrictive covenants, town ordinances, a recapture provision and others.
Copies of this agreement are available in the Town Hall for further reading.
The council unanimously voted to table the third reading of the Bloomfield annexation to give both council members and the public a chance to look over the annexation agreement that the town would ostensibly enter into with HLH.
“There is never a dull moment when it comes to these meetings,” Harber said afterward. “Many legitimate concerns were raised, most of which have been addressed or are being addressed through the annexation agreement and prior meetings. Although it would have been nice to have completed the annexation so that we can begin moving forward into the next stages which will be much more comprehensive, I think it was wise for the council to take the extra time to look over the actual agreement.
“...It was emphasized that this is a long, drawn-out process and that w ewill be coming before the P&Z and Council every step of the way, but there still seems to be some confusion about how the process works. As we continue moving forward, that process will unfold and I am anxious to continue working with the town and county, both officials and citizens, to make sure the Bloomfield helps to maintain the Pinedale atmosphere and charm while addressing some of the significant issues the town currently faces. We believe the best way to achieve this is through proactive planning and design, which is why the master plan has been proposed the way it has. Time will certainly prove what proper planning can accomplish.”
The council has rescheduled the third reading of the Bloomfield annexation for their next meetingon Feb.11.
See The Archives for past articles.
Copyright © 2002-2008 Sublette Examiner
All rights reserved. Reproduction by any means must have permission of the Publisher.
Sublette Examiner, PO Box 1539, Pinedale, WY 82941 Phone 307-367-3203