From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 5 - January 31, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Mayor criticizes BloomField opponents

by Alecia Warren

The Pinedale Town Council tabled the third reading of Ordinance 432 to annex the 240-acre BloomField Annexation at the council’s meeting on Monday, with the agreement that the issue would only be tabled until the next council meeting. Annexation is only the first step in developing the subdivision, which has attracted much contention over its capacity to double Pinedale’s population.

The Council didn’t table the issue because of the protestors packing the room who delivered angry questions about the 196-unit subdivision for over an hour. In fact, Mayor Stephen Smith chastised the locals for waiting until literally the last minute to raise their

concerns, when developer Matt Harber of Haymaker Land Holding has made himself available to work with comments and criticism for the past six months.

Nor did the council make the decision because its members were uncertain about how they planned to vote on the annexation. Each declared their minds as firmly made up, their inclinations seemingly clear from the unanimous votes on the first two readings of the annexation.

Instead, they tabled the decision to allow the general public a period to review the BloomField annexation agreement between the Town of Pinedale and the Haymaker Land Holding company only just completed by Town Attorney Ed Wood, who presented it at the meeting.

Pinedale has never entered into an annexation agreement over a development before, but the BloomField’s unprecedented size called for it, Wood said.

The document describes details of the annexation’s conditions, from infrastructure to water rights to town ordinances.

Some of the key points in the agreement include that the town can’t guarantee that a large enough system will exist to accommodate the subdivision, though the town is planning to expand its sewer line this summer. Each section of the development is required to have strict covenants approved by the Town Council, though the town won’t hold responsibility for enforcing them.

“This agreement should’ve been brought forth on the first reading, without a doubt, not sprung on people at the 11th hour on the third reading,” said Gary Heuck, Town Council Member. “ I think it’s just being fair to let people look this over and learn about the development. Maybe it’ll change their minds — or maybe when they come back to the next meeting, they might change some of the council members’ minds. They might change mine.”

Hard copies of the annexation agreement are available at the Town Hall.

Harber said he didn’t mind waiting another week, though the delay will “definitely slow us down,” he said.

Once the property is annexed, Harber will begin the platting process. The development plats, which will include a mobile home park, RV park, apartment complex and multi-family homes, will have to be approved by the Planning and Zoning Committee and the Town Council.

“It’s going to be a very drawn-out process,” Harber said, and he hopes to finish it in time to start construction this summer. The BloomField Annexation has been proposed with R-2, R-4, MH and C-1 zoning districts already in place, which roused the most opposition on Monday night.

John Fogerty, Planning and Zoning board member, pointed out that annexing the property with residential and commercial zoning would allow Harber to develop as much as he wants, whether or not it’s needed, so long as it meets town standards.

“You’ve assured us that we would have plenty of chances to speak to each of the concerns we had,” Fogerty said to Harber. Fogerty voted in favor of BloomField when the Planning and Zoning board approved the annexation months ago, but now he questions whether he or anyone else will be able to participate in Harber’s decisions, with zoning already laid out.

If the development was annexed with open Agricultural Zoning, Fogerty said, it could be rezoned as each separate development phase was proposed. That way, the town could be more informed of each phase of the subdivision’s transformation. The worst repercussion of the proposed zoning, Fogerty predicted, was that Harber might continue to develop long after housing needs become obsolete in Pinedale.

Harber currently plans for a long-term construction phase of the subdivision spanning more than a decade, with the primary motive to accommodate and keep the gas boom workers in Sublette County.

But the workers won’t be in the county much longer than a decade to fill those homes, Fogerty said. According to the Revised Draft of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (RDSEIS) for the Pinedale Anticline Project Area (PAPA), he said, the BLM predicts that drilling on the Anticline will cease by 2026.

The thousands of development workers, who statistics show will likely pick up and drift wherever another mineral boom offers a job, will dwindle to zero, Fogerty said. Production work might last for another four or five decades, but with less than 400 workers requiring housing.

“If this subdivision turns out not to be a good idea in seven years, there won’t be anything we can do to stop it,” Fogerty said. Planning and Zoning Chairman Paul Rock also questioned if Pinedale could supply enough water for other developments if BloomField sucked all of it up.

Town Engineer Eugene Ninnie dismissed the point as ludicrous.

“Fremont Lake can easily sustain the BloomField Subdivision,” Ninnie said. “And to drive down cost, you bring in more people onto the system. With the same number we have now, costs will be higher.”

Smith didn’t think the Planning and Zoning members had a right to complain at this stage in the annexation process.

The Planning and Zoning Committee, assigned with advising the Town Council on decision like property annexation, already approved the annexation, and hadn’t met with Harber to discuss their problems in the ensuing months, Smith said.

Harber had even requested to sit one-on one to discuss the development with Rock before the first Planning and Zoning meeting, but Rock said the idea made him feel uncomfortable, which Smith criticized. “For the planning and zoning board to wait until the third reading to make their criticism known is just, well, bad planning,” Smith said.

Forest Wakefield, owner of Log Cabin Motel and Chairman of the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce, was one of two people at the meeting to support the annexation. “I fully support affordable housing – I can keep doing the business I’m doing and maybe own more businesses because there will be a workforce that can live here. Right now, I can try to convince people to move here by selling how beautiful the area is, but I also have to tell them that they can’t afford to live here and I can’t afford to pay them to live here. The affordability of this project will go a long way toward that. If we grow enough, we can sustain ourselves economically after the boom ends.”

Other locals echoed Fogerty and Rock’s concerns about zoning and water rights, and questioned how property values would be affected. The Town Council pointed out that these complaints should have been raised several weeks ago and in a context where Harber could have worked with them.

Harber defended that if the property is annexed with open Agricultural Zoning instead of its current residential and commercial zoning, the subdivision would be subject to “spot zoning,” and merely reflect the need of the day.

“The whole point of a master plan is to plan ahead so we can connect not only the roads, but the infrastructure, pathways,” Harber said. “How much is the town currently spending to put pathways in town, because it wasn’t planned ahead?” He further guaranteed that if there was no more housing need in town in seven years, as Fogerty had suggested, development would cease. The subdivision will only be worthwhile for his company if people want to live there.

“I do take offense to comments that this hasn’t been properly planned – I’ve poured my heart and soul into this,” Harber said. “I understand I’m just some dirty developer, but I’m the only one taking true initiative to address the needs we have. Throughout this whole process, I’ve worked closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Wyoming Department of Transportation, the county commissioners, the health district, the sheriffs, the Town Council. I didn’t just show up and say, ‘hey, let’s build some houses.’”

Harber further pointed out that though he has held public meetings since October and published his phone number and e-mail in the town newspapers, he had received little feedback before Monday night.

To ensure the public is fully informed of the annexation’s details, the Town Council tabled the matter so people can read the annexation agreement.

“I’ve already made my decision on (the annexation), but I only thought that since (the agreement) was presented at a late date, those who are concerned with the development should have the right to see it,” Heuck said. “I thought it was only fair for to let you discuss this with Harber and anybody else you need to.”

Rock, however, said the Town Council should give the annexation more thought in the meantime.

“I find it troubling that you’re all so unanimous about this,” Rock said to the council. “I would feel much more comfortable if the vote was 3 to 2.”

Smith replied that the council had given the decision plenty of thought in the last six months.

“I’m sorry we can’t provide for your comfort, but it’s in the council’s discretion,” Smith said.

In other Town Council news:

—The Town Council promised to address the Town Park extension at the end of the month, once locals have mailed in park surveys with their water bills.

— The council approved procuring Request for Proposals (RFP) and Request forQualification (RFQ) for phases 4, 5 and 6 of the Engineering Department’s project to replace water, sewer and streets in Pinedale.

— The council approved that Ninnie look for a contractor to remove sludge from the aeration lagoon.

— The council agreed to award the bid to build the Town Hall addition to Barry Bowser of Arrowhead Builders. The bid was priced at $115,325.

— The council agreed to enter a contractwith design and consulting firm Stantec to conduct a Comprehensive 5-year Traffic, Road and Street Capital Improvement Study.

— Municipal Court Judge Ruth Neely reportedto the council that 50 percent of municipal court tickets handed out in 2007 were for public drinking and parking tickets.

— Municipal Officer Jennifer Gocke reported that in 2007, she had given 11 parking citations, had 10 vehicles towed, reported three accidents, wrote citations for four barking dogs, distributed 15 dog tags, and found four dogs, three of which were adopted out and one of which was returned to its owner.

— The council passed the second reading of Ordinance 433 creating chapter 17.39, section 17.39.031 allowing limited mixed residential use in the C-1 District as a conditional use.

— The council passed the second reading of Ordinance 434 deleting and repealing chapter 17.40, section 17.40.070

— The council passed the second reading of Ordinance 435 amending section 13.03.020 modifying the manner of computing the connection fee for businesses.

— The council passed the second reading of Ordinance 436 amending section 2.04.120 relating to the form of application for municipal office.

The next Town Council meeting will be on Feb. 11

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