Volume 104, Number 10 - March 8, 2007
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County needs no suggestion from town for subdivision zone change, town P&Z makes one anyway
No recommendation required
Pinedale area residents who came to voice their concerns about the proposed Old Brazzill Ranch subdivision quickly learned at Monday’s town planning and zoning board meeting they had only come to an “informational” meeting on the development.
Because the property designated for development falls outside of Pinedale, state statute does not oblige the county to obtain a prior recommendation from the town council or zoning board before granting a zone change, town attorney Ed Wood explained at the meeting. Even when the land in question falls within a one-mile radius of the town, as does this planned subdivision, owned by Richardson Development Inc., the county does not need the municipality’s approval to grant a zone change. However, if the county commission approves the zone change, the Pinedale Town Council would need to grant plat approval before the subdivision can be developed.
Mark Eatinger of Rio Verde Engineering, which represents Richardson Development, Inc., announced to the town planning and zoning board that he was seeking a zone change for roughly 348 acres of land from an agricultural designation to R6000 residential. Land zoned under the R6000 title must contain minimum lot sizes of 6,000 square feet. Eatinger also told the board he would request a zone change on just under nine acres of land from agricultural use to general commercial.
According to Sublette County Planning Administrator Bart Myers, the proposed Richardson development would contain 230 lots. Thirty lots would contain multi-family residences, while 191 lots would be desig-nated for single-family homes. Four lots would be zoned for commercial use, and the subdivision would allot five parcels for open space.
Eatinger told the planning and zoning board the new subdivision would use the same access road as the existing Old Brazzill Ranch subdivision. He also reported that, after speaking before the Pinedale Town Council in December, the town had agreed to provide water and sewer services to the subdivision, if Cecilia Richardson would pay to build and maintain the lines, in accordance with town standards.
During the public comment period of the meeting, many citizens voiced their opposition to the subdivision. Rick Kincaid, who is building a house in the current Old Brazzill Ranch, said he was worried the new highdensity development, which might contain modular homes, would decrease his property values.
Eatinger also announced the Richardsons’ intention to devote the multi-family residences to an affordable housing initiative. However, the conditions of the low-cost housing plan remained vague. Eatinger said Richardson Development, Inc. would provide affordable residences only “if we can make it work” with the town and county. Richardson told the board and the audience she could create not a formal low-cost housing development until the community forms an oversight organization or committee.
According to Myers, Sublette County has no restrictions that would prevent a developer from creating low-cost housing. Richardson said she was willing to donate some land for an affordable housing initiative, but was unwilling to bear the entire cost of the program.
“I cannot go broke,” she said. Richardson argued the county should set aside a portion of the revenue it generates from sales tax to subsidize the costs of affordable housing infrastructure. If the government financed housing initiatives, developers could lower the market price of homes, Richardson claimed.
“Otherwise, you’re not going to get affordable housing anywhere. Not in my subdivision, not in any subdivision,” she said. Apprehension over the county’s rapid growth also underscored the discussion of the new Old Brazzill Ranch development. Paris Babcock evoked the 1980s energy bust in Evanston. During that local recession, apartments created during the boom languished unoccupied for years, Babcock said.
She also suggested large developments would spoil the town’s open, rural aesthetic. “This is a cowboy town,” Babcock said. Doc Johnson asked if municipal service providers, like the local schools, Sheriff’s department and fire department, had received estimated population growth figures. A volunteer fireman replied that his organization had not been given any concrete population projections.
Traffic and water and sewer service to the subdivision were also points of contention. Des Brunette pointed out that Pinedale had denied the Richardsons’ Tyler Street subdivision proposal because of traffic concerns. The new development would increase traffic on Highway 191 to dangerous levels, Brunette said.
Planning and zoning board member Paul Rock asked Eatinger if WYDOT was concerned about the potential hazards that might accompany increased traffic on the existing Old Brazzill Ranch turn-off road. Eatinger said residents of the new Old Brazzill Ranch development would use the same access road that homeowners in the current subdivision use. The developers would probably create another access road, he added.
Paul Davidson, who lives on Looney Lane, quipped, “Maybe, if we plan this just right, the first traffic light in Pinedale won’t even be in Pinedale.” John Mackey, a local attorney, questioned the town council’s decision to provide water and sewer utilities to the proposed development. He asked what legal authority gave the town the ability to approve water and sewer requests to developers, and how utility agreements could be enforced.
“Is there a mindset around here that anyone who wants water and sewer from the town can get it?” Mackey asked. According to municipal ordinance 15.7.404, a “board of public utilities has exclusive control of all municipally owned water works, sanitary sewer systems and sewage disposal plants.” The ordinance obligates the board to supply the town residents with water, but may sell “any surplus” of these utilities to entities outside of town.
Ordinance13.04.036 gives the town the authority to sell bulk water and sewer services, if it possesses sufficient resources. Ultimately, the planning and zoning board, dismayed at its inability to make a formal recommendation to the county about a zoning change to land that falls within the town’s one-mile radius and will likely be annexed by the town, decided to make a recommendation to deny the zone change. Only Barbara Boyce voted against the recommendation.
Planning and zoning chairman Robert Brito objected to the absence of curbs and sidewalks in the subdivision plans. Sidewalks, he said, allow homeowners and their children to walk in their neighborhoods, fostering a sense of community. “To not have sidewalks and curbs is unacceptable,” Brito stated.
Paul Rock said he opposed the zone change because he believed the development raised many “unanswered questions.” When Eatinger retorted that unanswered questions were not a legitimate reason to recommend denying a zone change, Rock asked, “How about reasonable doubt?” With evident frustration, Eatinger restated his case for the development, pointing out the subdivision would possess water and sewer access, open space, parks and highway access.
At the end of the discussion Wood asked the board if its recommendation stemmed from a feeling that “a development of this size at this place is inappropriate,” a suggestion Rock refuted.
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