From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 52 - December 25, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Proposed town ordinance already under fire

by Stephen Crane

A new ordinance for the town of Pinedale is in the works and it's raising eyebrows for some in the community.

At the Dec. 6 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission, members were given copies of Ordinance 442, which is largely aimed at non-residential development, but they chose not to vote on it until each of them had been given time to digest the fivepage document. Plans were made to discuss the ordinance at their Jan. 5 meeting.

According to the official copy of the ordinance, however, the Town Council already passed the ordinance on its Nov. 24 first reading, despite the fact that Planning and Zoning had not yet had a chance to review the document.

A second reading was scheduled for the Dec. 13 meeting of the Town Council, but no action was taken since the Planning and Zoning Commission had not yet voted on the ordinance.

The most recent ordinance requires that site plans be approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Town Council before a building permit can be issued. The ordinance also contains language that has proven problematic for some members of the public.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints,” said Planning and Zoning Commission chairman, John Fogerty. “It kind of goes back to the last discussion when we were talking about architectural standards, and it’s brought up in (this ordinance).”

Towards the end of the summer, citizens voiced their opposition to the implementation of architectural standards for any new Pinedale businesses, and this ordinance has similar language, though in far more general terms.

But these architectural standards are only one aspect of the lengthy ordinance. According to Town Engineer Eugene Ninnie the need for the ordinance is two-fold.

“The current process is unorganized,” said Ninnie. “Right now, they come in and ask for a building permit. It’s backwards. You really want that at the tail end. All this does is to clearly define a process.”

If the ordinance were to pass, the process would entail a number of steps for the applicant. After compiling the required documents and engineered site plans, the applicant may request a “pre-submission conference” with Ninnie to address any remaining technical aspects of the project. It is then brought before P&Z, and then the Town Council.

If approval is given for the site plan, the applicant may then request a building permit from the town.

The other motivation for the ordinance is perhaps the more controversial, and involves the architectural standards.

“There’s also some discussion, some concern about the architectural thing coming up,” said Ninnie. “The harmonization of the neighborhood is left up to (P&Z and Town Council). Now it may sound nebulous, but it really isn’t, because the reality is, these people are local people. They know what they want.”

In section 17.19.050 of the ordinance, entitled “Standards for Approval,” the proposal requires that “any development…will harmoniously and satisfactorily fit in with contiguous land and buildings and adjacent neighborhoods. In addition, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Town Council may consider the factors of architectural design as it relates to the character of the site and the community.”

The ordinance goes on to say, “The site plan shall be of a character so as to harmonize with the neighborhood, to accomplish a transition in character between areas of unlike character, to protect property values and to preserve and enhance the appearance of the community.”

The discretionary power to evaluate these undefined requirements lies in the hands of the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Town Council.

Those most affected will be business owners in the area, as well as those who plan on developing in the town of Pinedale. Yet many are still unaware of the proposed ordinance.

“In order for the board to take a stand on it, we would have to have feedback from our membership,” said Terrie Swift, director of the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce. As it stands currently, most of the chamber’s membership has not yet examined the document.

For local engineering firms that would have the task of compiling all the necessary requirements for submission to the town, the demands of the recent ordinance are relative to other municipalities.

“Some of it looks really good,” said Brian Gray, of WLC Engineering. “Some of it looks maybe a little cumbersome, but nothing too bad, I guess, compared to what some other towns do.”

Other towns in Wyoming do have site plan requirements, which have helped clarify and organize the application process.

“If you go to Lander, if you got to Riverton, to Cheyenne, any town in the area, it’s basically the same,” Ninnie concurred. “They have a site plan process. Now, their criteria may be a little different, but they have it.”

The Planning and Zoning Commission will be discussing Ordinance 442 at its next meeting on Jan. 5, and any concerned citizens are encouraged to attend.

“We’ll see what the public’s reaction is going to be,” said Fogerty. “Because ultimately, we’re going to have to go with the constituents’ consensus.”

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