Volume 105, Number 7 - February 14, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
by Alecia Warren
Locals packed the seats and crowded into the hallway at Monday night’s Pinedale Town Council meeting, where they waited to hear the council’s vote on Ordinance 432 to annex the BloomField property just north of town.
After listening to citizens’ concerns about annexing the property, where developer Matt Harber plans to build a 240-acre subdivision with 926 units, the council voted three to one to annex the land.
The council members recognized local anxiety about a subdivision that would double the population of the town, said Council Member Nylla Kunard, but they had to be realistic.
“I have lived here longer than most of you people have been alive,” Kunard said before the vote. “It’s my town, and I don’t want to see this growth. But I just feel it’s going to be.
“We have no crystal ball telling us whether this is going to work, but we don’t know if anything else that comes along is going to work, either. I think for the long run, it’s good for the town.”
Council Member David Hohl acknowledged that some citizens, including members of the Planning and Zoning Board, would prefer to see the property annexed as agricultural land, requiring Harber to propose each subdivision district when growth and other circumstances necessitate. But Harber’s proposal to annex the land with pre-zoned residential and commercial districts allows for better planning, Hohl pointed out, and prevents spot development with districts that might not fit well together.
“I’ve worked with the Forest Service for 30 years, and I’ve seen so many (instances) where people looked ahead about two years and felt something (should be built), and five years later wished they’d done it totally different,” Hohl said.
Gary Heuck, however, who voted against the annexation, said he agreed with the Planning and Zoning Board that annexing the property as agricultural land would allow the town to prevent over-development.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against this thing,” Heuck said. “I’m just against it all being done at once.”
Heuck also worried about the BloomField subdivision tapping into the new water and sewer infrastructure the town plans to develop this year.
“The people of this town have paid for that water and sewer system,” he said. “To annex somebody in there who’s going to use a whole bunch of that and (make us) have to start over again, that’s not fair to the people in the town of Pinedale.
“(Harber) has to be held in some agreement that if it exceeds a certain amount, he ought to pay for the water and sewer rehabilitation.”
Kunard, who used to work in the treasury office, argued that most of the water and sewer project is paid for by the state, with only a very small amount of taxpayer dollars mixed in.
Council Member Chris House said the subdivision will help plan for future growth. “I’m a firm believer that we can manage this well, and I want to see it move forward,” House said.
Mayor Stephen Smith did not vote, as the mayor’s vote is only binding in the event of a tie.
Before Harber can begin construction, he must still plan each of the subdivision districts, which will include a mobile home park, an RV park, apartments, condos and multi-family homes. The Planning and Zoning Board and the Town Council will review the details of each district separately before the council gives Harber approval to build. Harber plans to build low-income housing first, beginning with the trailer home park, and will gradually add more districts over the years. He anticipates the subdivision will continue to develop over the next 15 to 20 years.
The council’s vote followed citizens’commentary on the annexation that was surprisingly subdued, compared to the anger and frustration expressed in previous Town Council meetings and last week’s Bloom-Field Workshop held by the Planning and Zoning Board.
Local Joanne Garnett said that BloomField’s affordable housing will boost the local economy by allowing service industry employees to settle in Pinedale. “When (my husband and I) owned a restaurant, my business depended on the dishwasher,” Garnett said. “He was the least paid worker in the whole town, but everything else crumbled down around him. If that person can’t find housing in this community, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”
John Godfrey, chairman of the County Tourism Board, said he was suspicious of Harber’s predictions that the subdivision would help sustain Pinedale’s economy after the energy boom ended, however.
“It’s been my experience in the communities I’ve lived in that opportunity comes first, and the housing second,” Godfrey said.
John Fogerty, Planning and Zoning Board member, agreed that Pinedale might not actually possess the ability to grow a self-sustaining economy after the energy boom ends, which would render the extra housing unnecessary. “You can’t compare a town like this to Jackson, because up there you’ve got resorts like Targhee, Jackson Hole. You’ve got white water rafting. You’re next to a major airport, you’re next to Teton National Park, you’re next to Yellowstone National Park,” Fogerty said. “The opportunities abound for all sorts of businesses (in Jackson). Here we’re just a little more limited in that area, I think.”
Harber said after the meeting that he was pleased with the council’s vote, and impressed with the comments he heard.
“There has been a lot of planning in this, and the town’s going to keep on top of us all the way,” Harber said. “What’s really good is people are actually getting involved. I just hope this means that now they’ll actually come and talk to me.
“I think there are a lot of good ideas outside of my own, and I’d like to hear them.
That’s what this process is about.”
In other Town Council news:
— The council approved the BloomField Annexation Agreement between Haymaker Land Holding Company and the Town of Pinedale laying out the details of the Bloom-Field annexation.
— The council approved the final plat for North Sky Second Filing Addition.
— The council passed the third reading of Ordinance 433 allowing limited mixed residential use in the C-1 District.
— The council passed the third reading of Ordinance 434 deleting and repealing Chapter 17.40, Section 17.40.070.
— The council passed the third reading of Ordinance 435 modifying the manner of computing the connection fee for businesses.
— The council passed the third reading of Ordinance 436 amending section 2.04.120 application for municipal office.
Photo credits: Alecia Warren
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