From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 104, Number 21 - May 24, 2007
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Planning and Zoning debates enforcement

by Julia Stuble

The owner of a piece of property “junked” by 12 to 15 allegedly inoperable vehicles applied for a zone change and variance at the May 17 Sublette County Planning and Zoning board.

The zone change was in danger of a denial recommendation simply because of the vehicles constituting a violation of Sublette County regulations, but was ultimately passed with a condition to bring the property into compliance.

Two members of the board issued a motion to deny Andrew Michael O’Neal’s zone change request because of the violation. However, O’Neal had not currently been made aware of the violation, Planner Bart Myers pointed out, and the vehicles may be operable, meaning no violation existed. O’Neal owns a 20-acre piece of land south of the intersections of Highways 191 and 189. His agent, Scott Scherbel with Surveyor Scherbel, had applied, under Myers advice, for a zone change from RR-20 to RR-10, in order to create a two-lot subdivision. Scherbel had also, philosophically unwillingly, applied for a variance in order to actually subdivide the property. Under Sublette County regulations, a parcel may only be split twice, and Myers asserted that the minor subdivision would be the third split.

“As the current 20 acre O’Neal parcel has been previously divided and exempted from compliance with statutory requirements a second division cannot be processed as a Minor Subdivision under the current regulations,” states the staff report, justifying the variance application Scherbel contested this assertion, noting that the first split of the property was before the county regulations were in place.

The board agreed on this point, that in any event the parent piece of property would have been split more than twice with this application, and that the application in front of them was for a variance, not a minor subdivision. This brought them back to the enforcement problem. Could the county withhold approval of the application on the grounds that the property was in violation? “If he is violating the rules, I don’t see how we can condone that,” noted Jay Anderson, usually a private property rights proponent. Myers noted that the county has no enforcement abilities to physically remove something, though a property in violation of regulations can be turned over to the county attorney for prosecution. “In this case, the hammer, so to speak, would be to not allow the subdivision until the property is brought into compliance,” he added.

Staff had recommended approving the zone change, but denying the variance, on the grounds that it was self-inflicted. Though the board considered a motion to deny the zone change, it was eventually approved unanimously, with conditions that O’Neal proves the cars to be operable or remove them from the property. No more than two inoperable vehicles may be parked on residential properties. The variance, however, was denied despite Scherbel’s arguments.

“This is a variance application, whether it should have been or not,” Sommers stated, adding that it was self-inflicted. “I am very comfortable with my interpretation,” Myers had told the board after Scherbel asserted the first division was a “lot division” as the county did not yet govern “subdivision.”

“This is the first time it is being divided under subdivision regulations,” Scherbel claimed, but the board was examining a variance application, and decided this claim was a moot point.

Also at the planning board meeting, the final plat for the Wilderness Estates Subdivision was approved. Though the board does not usually see final plats anymore, the preliminary plat had been attached with the condition that the final return to the board, in order for it to ensure several conditions were met.

The preliminary plat was reviewed by the board at its March meeting, and went through the county commissioners in April. The subdivision would create 20 lots, 14 of 5 acres each, and six of 20 acres. Now, Myers noted, the final conditions had been cleared up.

Wilderness Estates had to bring the private access road up to county standards, a maintenance committee had been established, uses for the common open space had been defined, and the irrigation ditches all got 10-foot setbacks from the sides.

Jay Anderson, a board member from south county, officially resigned his seat as he would be moving out of the area. This leaves an unexpired one-year term open on the board, which the commissioners will advertise for and then appoint a citizen. The board thanked Anderson for his service.

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