Volume 7, Number 47 - February 14, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Mission: Annexation – Stage Complete
by Tiffany Turner
While few residents can agree as to whether it was a victory or a loss for the town and its populace, one things is certain: Pinedale’s Town Council annexed the Bloomfield Monday with a 3-1 (Gary Hueck voted in opposition) approval of both the annexation agreement and the annexation itself. The prezoned 240 acres has now become an official appendage to the town, lengthening the western city limits nearly to Ehman Lane.
After a drawn-out process of public meetings, an advertising period, more public meetings during the three required readings at town council and a last minute tabling due to the appearance of an annexation agreement between the town and developer Matt Harber, council allowed one last round of public comment and made a decision in favor of the project.
Harber represented the contracted developing company, Haymaker Land Holding Company, LLC, and the property owners, the Harber Family Trust. The annexation agreement controls and limits promises by the town and allowances for the particular development, an unprecedented agreement recommended by Town Attorney Ed Wood due to the unique size of the proposed annexation.
While many have spoken out at public meetingsheld over the past several months, a large turnout at Monday’s council meeting only reaped a small amount of comment, likely due to most having spoken their opinions and voiced questions on previous occasions. There were, however, several individuals (some speaking for the first time) that chose to stand and address the council. As a tmost past meetings, a myriad of comments were accepted ranging from those adamantly against the development at this time to thosewho want to see the project already underway. For those falling between those two extremes, a general consensus came out that, while annexation is not bad, they prefer to see the council develop and zone such a large project in stages to allow the planning process to develop over time.
“This is America and Mr. Harber should be able to do what he wants with his property,” said former Town Council member David Smith.
Smith, however, warned the council to ensure that this project will not turnout like other developments annexed in the past that have not kept up building and developing to town standards once annexation was approved. He stated that having Harber build the property before approving the annexation might be a better solution as the town would then still retain “something he (Harber) wants.”
Smith also does not see the development actually offering affordable housing, stating that developers and future property owners would sell the homes for as much as they thought they could get. “The cost will have to be mandated,” Smith said. “Taking someone at their word is foolish, I believe.”
Local real estate agent and previous planning and zoning (P&Z) commissioner for the town of Jackson, Michael Kudar spoke in favor of the development, finding it one of the best options Pinedale has been offered and undertaken since the recent “boom.”
“It is by far the best and most beneficial to the town of Pinedale,” Kudar said. “He’s filling a niche that no one else is filling. He is bringing a project and services to this town that are very needed.”
Kudar disagreed with Smith that standards might slip if annexation is approved before construction begins, stating he felt the council would hold Harber to high standards.
In his argument Kudar also faulted recent actions by the town’s P&Z board when its members came to the Town Council voicing opinions and concerns in direct opposition to the vote they had previously made.
“For them to come at the eleventh hour and complain...it shows no leadership,’ he said.“ This is Planning 101 – if you are going to be a planning commissioner, you need to educate yourselves.” Kudar advised the council and P&Z board that it would be worthwhile to require or urge P&Z members to attend annual planning seminars to understand the rules and function of the volunteer board.
Jo Crandall, a former restaurant owner in Pinedale, spoke in favor of the project and stated that she felt her late husband Craig Crandall, a long-time resident whose family had always tried to remain “forward thinking,” would also approve of the endeavor, she said.
“We’re trying to look at these things as they would benefit the town in the near-term and the long-term,” Crandall said. “I think Craig would support this and I do, too.”
Crandall cited the ability to keep the high density living for the town close as opposed to the sprawl that has taken place. She said she feels the sprawl causes more problems than a dense development, including more wells that would lower water quality, and the other impacts on the environment would be more controlled and less of an issue as well.
Crandall also welcomed the idea of affordable housing having experienced first-hand the trials faced by those making the lower wages in town – including numerous individuals sharing the same home, a problem she felt this new development would help solve. “We really are shooting ourselves in the foot,” she said. “We need to provide a place where people can finds omething affordable.” Crandall did not support the concept of annexing and zoning the project “piece-meal.”
Piece-meal, however, was the only logical solution to many in the crowd, with an argument that total prezoning would leave the town unable to control and maintain the development process and community created by the new annexation. “When it does come to plat time, community welfare is out the window,” County P&Z Commissioner Carmel Kail advised, stating that the only control at that point will be regulations such as the number of parking spaces required for a specific development.
Kail said she worried the project would last too long and grow too big to be finalizing all plans at this early stage.
“Things are going to change,” she said.
Also in support of a slowdown that would almost inevitably lead to piece-meal development, was John Godfrey. Godfrey’s main concerns are the town’s economic stability and the possible negative impact on the housing market. “For most of us our most important asset is our home and its value,” Godfrey said.
Godfrey stated that he would like to see the Town Council retain some control over the project to ensure the development does not harm the economic welfare of the town; otherwise, he said, “I would support annexation without hesitation.”
County P&Z board member Dave Harper backed Godfrey’s comments with the example of Meeker, Colo., where homes were bulldozed because they could not be sold even at largely depreciated values.
“It crippled the community there for some time,” he said.
Newest P&Z member John Fogerty agreed with slower development by piece by-piece zoning.
“I think it could be a good thing for the town,” Fogerty said. “But(I’d like to see) a little bit more research before taking this plunge.”
Geoff Sell, a neighbor to the development, disagreed, stating he sees extra time as more of a deterrent. “Things seem to come and go in six month cycles,” Sell said. “There is always a reason to stop something.”
Sell said he hopes the town would move forward with the development before the offer was off the table.
“Supply and demand is going to regulate the pace; it always has,” he said.
Fogerty requested a rebuttal and Mayor Steve Smith allowed it.
“Supply and demand will always dictate what is built,” Fogerty said. “But we’re riding such an uncertain wave and we don’t know how long it will last.”
Despite the many differing opinions voiced, different options offered and requests that the issue once again be tabled for further research, Pinedale’s Town Council moved forward with the decision.
With several slight amendments, council motioned to approve (with Hueck in opposition) the annexation agreement. A motion to approve the annexation, with only Hueck in opposition once more, quickly followed. Hueck stated that he agreed with many in the crowd who wish the development could be zoned and created in parts as opposed to the zoning the entire project at this stage.
“I’m against it all being done at once,” Hueck said.
Council members Nylla Kunard and Chris House also took the opportunity to explain their supporting votes. “I thought long and hard about this,” House said.
House added that he sees this as an excellent project and will be good for the town. He stated that he was approving the annexation “in firm belief that we can manage this well.” “Sublette County and Pinedale is going to grow whether we like it or not,” Kunard said. Kunard said she felt that a dense development like this would help the town more than sprawling development because the police, ambulance and other services would be better used (instead of subsidized by the town as is almost required when small subdivisions pop up around the area due to the costs brought on by the situation. When choosing between sprawl and dense development, Kunard said she preferred this organization.
“We have no crystal ball that this will work,” Kunard said. “I think that in the long run this is good for the town.”
The approval last night was definitely a step in the right direction but only the first of many,” Harber said after the meeting. “We are pleased that the council approved the annexation based on the research and planning that we have done, and we look forward to working with the town through every step of the process. There was also some good feedback from citizens, which we will continue to address throughout the development phases.”
In other town news:
• The Corral Bar was allowed four 24-hour liquor sales licenses for March 15 (St. Patrick’s Day), July 12 (Rendezvous), Oct. 31 (Halloween) and Dec. 31, 2008 (New Year’s Eve).
• Martha Ptasnik and others representing The Learning Center spoke briefly with the council to figure out parking options so illegal parking and traffic congestion is lessened during pick-up and drop-off times at the school. The council agreed to look into options.
• Pinedale Fine Arts Council was given permission for a 24-hour malt beverage permit under Ridley’s Grocery during the Community Theatre productions at the Pinedale Community Church on March 5-8 for the dinner portion of the evening.
• Dave Harper requested an exemption to the leashed-dog law due to hardships caused by physical disability. Due to previously proven behavior by the canines in question and the hardship caused, Town Council agreed to look into the legality of the matter and provide an exemption to the new ordinance.
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