From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 46 - February 7, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Brawl (of words) Over Bloomfield
Tempers flare at town P&Z workshop
by Tiffany Turner

Despite the lack of advertisement going out to the public, Pinedale’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) board held a public workshop Monday night to discuss the controversial Bloomfield project that when finished could ostensibly double the size of the town.

The proposed 230-acre development created a rather animated discussion during last week’s Town Council meeting, which according to P&Z Chair Paul Rock was the reason for holding the workshop. According to Rock, the lack of publication was not his doing and he spent the better part of the week informing others that the meeting would take place so the community could openly discuss the annexation and the development.

“There were some, let’s call them issues,” Rock said of the previous week’s Town Council conversation that was chastised by the town for coming up at the “11th hour.”

To meet or not to meet?

Although the workshop had not been publicized,Town Attorney Ed Wood sent an e-mail of clarification to those questioning the legality of the meeting stating that the proceedings were legal due to the fact that there were no action items or items that needed advertisement on the agenda.

To begin the public workshop, Rock address his concerns to the crowd – a crowd that included many concerned citizens, most of Pinedale’s Town Council, including Mayor Steve Smith, P&Z staff, Matt Harber (representing the landowners and the developers of the property in question) and all Town Hall staff. Rock said he was of the opinion that someone within the P&Z staff department had specifically attempted to cancel the meeting in an attempt to squash the conversation concerning the annexation and development of such a large parcel. “I have some sad news – there was a clumsy attempt to cancel this meeting, but as you can see, things did not work out this way,” Rock said. “It was an unwarranted and shameful attempt to stifle (this workshop).”

Members of the P&Z staff disagreed, however, stating that historically when there were no agenda items for the board to discuss, no agenda was published and no meeting was held. Wood, in his letter addressing the validity and legality of the meeting, supported this historic fact. “What I did is I looked into the historic record and...if we did not have any agenda items, there is no reason to have a meeting,” P&Z Administrator Meghan Jacquet said. It was also pointed out that Rock never submitted an agenda for the meetings or for publication.

The debate – Rock vs. Harber “I’ve got some questions about this whole process,” Rock said. “Including the way it has been done.”

Rock stated that the prezoning of the property, with no future control towards the property was “revealed to us in a Jan. 24 e-mail to Carmel Kail.”

“That is in no way what came before us in October,” Rock said. “We get accused of about the 11th-hour and 59th-minute revelation.”

Jacquet reminded Rock that all previous annexations into the town have come with a prezoned master plan, and as a senior member of the P&Z board should be aware of the way the processes within the town works as listed in the P&Z books.

“You have been on this board for more than six years,” she said. “All of those had master plans prezoned...these...ordinances are in the (P&Z handbook) that you should probably reread.”

Despite Jacquets criticism of Rock, she stated that she understood the confusion from the newer members of the board toward the process, as this was the first annexation process they had undertaken. Rock said he worried about “giving (the developers) the keys to the kingdom” by prezoning the land, specifically the trailer park.

“What if it all goes to hell and turns into the methamphetamine acres,” he asked, an opinion on trailer parks that did not sit well with several members of the public. Rock also stated that he did not feel that anyone within the town was either qualified to complete or judge a master plan.

When the board recognized Harber and allowed him the floor, he was ready with a rebuttal – and some comments about the format of the meeting itself.

Harber reiterated to the crowd that the meeting was unadvertised and as such could possibly only contained individuals that were of the same opinion as Rock, who had invited everyone there personally, Harber said.

“This meeting in particular is not a requirement and if it turns out to be stacked in the wrong direction, don’t be surprised if I excuse myself because I won’t participate in this charade,” Harber said. “This has been my full-time job for the last year and I have the invoices to prove the work...done by land planners and engineers.”

Harber said while this development has only recently hit the agendas of P&Z and Town Council he has been working on it since 2004 when the town approached his family about the possibility of developing it. Harber also said his development was based on the need for permanent housing for the permanent jobs created, not for the transient workforce.

“Most of us came here because this is the kind of place we want to live,” he said. “Then we forget that other people want to live here, too. This entire project has been completely tailored to the town’s needs – if you can find another developer to do that, have at it, the property is now for sale.

“Most of the issues being presented now are personal against the Town Council and you haven’t even read the ordinances. You got your feelings hurt because Town Council did not send it back to you. You guys have to approve of everything we do, so it is not this blank check everyone keeps bringing up.”

Harber’s father agreed and took a quick stand after Rock’s insistence of calling the development “Harberville” as opposed to Bloomfield.

“This meeting is completely out of bounds, “ John Harber said. “You are out of line – from the very beginning the way you laid all of this out.”

Matt also read the entire letter from Ed Wood, which stated that while the proceeding were legal; Wood’s opinion was that the meeting was improper. “Does that answer your question?” Rock asked Matt. “You were seemingly questioning the legality of this meeting.”

“No, the legitimacy,” Matt said. “This is so completely staged and out of line. You, in particular, are changing the rules and the only reason I am here is because I feel I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. It is very frustrating to have rules we are supposed to follow and (you’re) not.”

With the very personal nature of the arguments, P&Z member Roz Leslie asked if the meeting would have been better served meeting in a non-government sanctioned place and not as a governing body.

“Should it have been under the guise of government to chop this guy’s head off?” Leslie asked.

Same side, different angle Newest board member John Fogerty took a different approach to a similar worry.

“All other things aside, the reason I spoke up at, yes the third because I was not aware that if I passed this on to the Town Council, the zoning we saw would stay as it was,” Fogerty said. “I am not against this development, which has been hard to convey at these meetings where things get personal and tempers flare.”

Fogerty continued to explain that after the proposal had originally been discussed at the P&Z board meeting (his first at which only two other members were present) a long silence took over the room due to the board’s hesitance to make a decision based on the magnitude of the proposal, although much of the public comment at that meeting had been in favor of the development. Fogerty then explained that he gave his positive vote towards the 2-1 approval of the project under the assumption the board would have the chance to review the zone changes and have some input on the progress of the project.

“If I was aware we were not going to be able to (voice an opinion) on how it was to be zoned, I wouldn’t have voted for it,” Fogerty said.

Board member Leslie agreed that she had been under the assumption that the P&Z board would have additional input on the project, when she voted in favor of the annexation aswell.

From the Board – a proposal

The P&Z board, mostly unanimous in their opinions, felt that a viable solution to the precarious nature of such a large annexation to the town would be to slow the development by only zoning a percentage of the property at a time, leaving the rest zoned agricultural – or some other form of zoning agreement that would allow the property to be zoned as it progresses as opposed to all at the beginning stage of the development.

“I think that is the prudent way to go about this,” Fogerty said. “I think it is too much for the town to give away at once – if it’s going to be done right it needs to be done right from the get-go.”

With zoning at every step, Fogerty said it would ensure that the process would be done properly with consideration to the current market and town structure at the time.

“That way, we all have the responsibility to see it all the way through,” he said. “I just feel like planning the next 15 years over a span of four months is impossible.”

In defense of his argument, Fogerty used an example of a town in Montana that he and his wife had considered purchasing prior to moving to Pinedale. According to Fogerty, the town that had taken on a similar development and individuals that had purchased homes there were currently unable to sell the homes for the prices they paid.

“They did too much at once and it really hurt the values of people’s homes,” he said.

In addition to concerns about water and sewer services (which were alleviated when she was informed that the annexation agreement would cover that and did not promise services or supply to the development, although it is planned), board member Barbara Boyce was also concerned about the speed at which the proposal was moving through and the size that was proposed.

“We have turned down other, much smaller annexations,” she said. “Now we have a monster on our hands and we’re just going hell-bent for leather.” “The community’s concerns are how the density is going to affect us,” Fogerty said. “The density does scare a lot of people.” “You can’t control the entire future,” said long-time resident Talli Manning said in support of the step-by-step proposal.

“We got grants for supporting growth,” Jacquet said.

In order to support this growth and make use of the funding, Jacquet explained, the community would need to grow and actively support it.

“The solutions need to be real, not this fairy-tale world where everything is possible solutions,” Harber said.

From the supporting staff – an explanation

Town Engineer Eugene Ninnie and Rio Verde Engineer Mark Eatinger attempted to shed some light into the infrastructure and size necessity for the project as well as why it was being developed in the order and process in which it was from an engineering standpoint, while Jacquet attempted to clarify the P&Z staff position.

Ninnie explained to the crowd that prezoning is “a good thing” for a development this large, due to what he feared would happen should spot-zoning take place.

“Everything is going to be haphazard and chaotic,” Ninnie said of spot development.

Ninnie also explained that prezoning would allow for an infrastructure to be ready to go when each stage of development takes place, including the commercial properties.

“It is a symbiotic relationship between the residential and the commercial,” he said.

As for the sewer and water supply, Ninnie explained that a new water system already in the works and had been prior to the Bloomfield proposal, would be able to support the growth planned within the community.

Jacquet explained that should the council zone parts of the development agricultural when they were annexed, it would be difficult – if feasible – to change the zoning. “There are only two reason to change a zone,” she said.

Jacquet gave the opinion that landowners have the right to determine what goes on their own property so long as the proposal meets the requirements set forth by the town and that P&Z was attempting to take on too much control of the molding of town. “Individuals and landowners build the community; the town just lays the foundation,” she said.

“We need to start working together on this and not turn it into the town versus the developer in everything we do,” Eatinger said.

“This is all part of the growth process,” Ninnie added. “That’s the real world.”

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