From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 10 - March 6, 2008
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P&Z favors Pine Creek Estates subdivision

by Alecia Warren

Patience ran thin at Monday’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting before the members at last voted to recommend the Town Council approve the fourth filing of a preliminary plat for Pine Creek Estates subdivision.

The commission couldn’t predict how the council would vote. The 12-lot subdivision has been the subject of controversy, as the Estates would sit beside Pine Creek on acreage just south of the Boyd Skinner Town Park that residents have long appreciated for its open space and wildlife habitats.

While the subdivision’s potential developer James Bowles, currently living in Florida, has repeatedly presented maps and studies of the subdivision to the Planning and Zoning Commission over the past year, the Town Council has wavered over purchasing the property from the developer to preserve it as an extension of the Town Park.

The Planning and Zoning Commission allowed Bowles’ representatives to present the subdivision proposal to the Town Council last November, but the council denied approval because of concerns over potential drainage and flooding problems.

Bowles’ representatives seemed to face he same concerns on Monday night. Rio Verde Engineering (RVE) representatives presented recent studies confirming minimal drainage from the town into the property, as well as FEMA maps showing the lots would sit at an elevation safe from flooding.

But Town Engineer Eugene Ninnie said he wanted them to conduct more comprehensive hydrological studies of the area. “You don’t provide enough information with data and maps for me, or anybody for that matter, to look at this and agree with your statements,” Ninnie said.

But Gaston Gosar, Bowles’ legal representative, argued that there was ample evidence that the property would never flood, and Bowles shouldn’t be expected to pour “a gazillion dollars” into more studies unless the commission guaranteed that the subdivision would be approved.

“I mean, good God, you look at the map here and all the other subdivisions around Pine Creek, you didn’t go into this depth with them,” he said, pointing out that the Fox Willow subdivision adjacent to Pine Creek has yet to be lifted off by a tidal wave in a 100-year flood. “This subdivision would be next to the park, so all of a sudden, the scrutiny goes through the roof.”

The council hasn’t even explained what town ordinances the subdivision proposal has failed to meet, Gosar continued, as the council is required to do.

“(The town’s) denying the plat on things that aren’t even there,” Gosar said.

Commission member John Fogerty pointed out that there was another issue besides safety that prevents the Town Council from approving the subdivision.

“Now the Town Council is faced with the information that came back from the public,” he said, referring to a January questionnaire that revealed 83 percent of nearly 200 residents support using town money to buy the property as an extension of the park. “If the council members don’t even make the attempt (to buy the land), or if it turns into the development right away, they’re going to be very unpopular,” Fogerty said.

The mayor’s office is investigating grants to help with the purchase, but there’s no timeline on when, if ever, the town will be able to purchase the 18 acres that could cost up to $2 million.

The Planning and Zoning Commission had to agree that council members should have been looking for funding since last summer, when they first began discussing

the idea of buying the property.

“They’ve had a whole year, and evidently all they’ve accomplished is 83 letters saying ‘yes, spend your money on that,’” said commission member Barbara Boyce.

The commission voted in favor of recommending the Town Council approve the preliminary plat, with the condition that Ninnie, Gosar and Rio Verde Engineering employees discuss exactly what needs to be done to make the plat worthy of council approval.

Gosar agreed, though he and Rio Verde Engineering representatives still insisted that they have already provided all the information the commission or the council needs to know about drainage and flooding for the subdivision.

“This is a dog and pony show to delay this subdivision,” Gosar said. “The suggestions that it’s going to get sold to the town as a park is a non-issue. And I don’t know why they keep surfacing, because nobody is approaching Mr. Bowles with any offers to buy the piece of property for the town park. If we’re truly in favor of the subdivision, let’s make the move.”

In other Planning and Zoning news:

— The commission voted to recommendthe Town Council approve a height variance for Reed’s Construction Company and Ready Mix, so the company can install a new batch plant with a cement silo reaching 66 feet in height. The commission added the stipulation that it would prefer the variance be limited to the use of the batch plant, and should the plant ever dissolve that use, the variance return to its original 45 feet.

— The commission voted to recommend the Town Council approve a commercial building permit for a new Sublette County maintenance facility, under the condition that the plans meet the requirements of the town engineer. The facility would be primarily used for vehicle and part storage.

— The commission voted to recommend the Town Council approve the preliminary plat for Harvest Dance Addition residential development. The proposed development would include four residential lots. The next Planning and Zoning meeting will be on April 7.

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