ROCK SPRINGS – Both sides at a public hearing on lot requirements claimed to be pro-development. The parties speaking at the Rock Springs City Council meeting on Tuesday, however, differed on the acceptable density of phase two of the Sweetwater Station subdivision and whether the city was following the proper method make a change.
After a divided council voted 4-3-2 against lowering the minimum requires plot acreage, which was wanted so more lots could be developed, Mayor Tim Kaumo predicted that this wasn’t the last time they would be discussing the project or this area.
According to city ordinances, rural estates zoning was established “to provide for the development, at a very low density, of single-family detached dwellings in subdivided areas of the community where it is desirable to maintain a semi-rural environment.”
Prior to the hearing on the topic, Kaumo reminded speakers to be respectful of one another and to not make threats or accusations.
In addition, Councilman Keaton West announced that he would abstain from the vote. He said he has family living in the subdivision and is wary of perception being perceived as reality.
While speakers are normally limited to five minutes each, supporters on both sides deferred their time some the spokesmen could finish their arguments.
While the city received letters against the revised PUD citing concerns about property values, increased traffic, and impaired views of White Mountain, most of Tuesday night’s criticisms focused on the lot size and legality of the process used to change the requirements.
Jay Schneiders said property owners in phase one were shocked when the proposed project when from 28 lots to 73, with about 65 lots requiring a variance so they didn’t have to meet the three-quarters-acre minimum size required for rural estates zoning. He argued that such a widespread use of variances was de-facto rezoning, and if the city wanted to permit such a change, it should follow the rezoning process.
A handout provided by Schneiders offered alternative, larger lot sizes for phase two that would be more acceptable to neighbors.
Fred von Ahrens said the proposed changes were “overreach” by the city and developer and would impact their ability to attract larger-lot buyers. He also said it would hurt resident’s trust.
“We ride for the brand. We don’t want to feel like we’re branded,” he said.
Daniel Pedri said that there may be a lack of available lots in Rock Springs, but there is also a lack of home buyers. He noted the community is no longer in a boom and that they may be sacrificing their own larger lots for a short-term gain of a few hundred people.
Daniel Kennedy, who spoke for Sweetwater Station LLC, said the original plan is not always the best plan, which is why PUDs are changed to meet the needs of the community. He said his clients had 15 years to sell the phase two lots at their current size, which is a long time to wait for a return on a multimillion investment.
He said the smaller lots would be more desirable and sell more quickly.
Justin Lemon, who identified himself as a local home builder, said he doesn’t have a lack of home buyers, but he doesn’t have a lot of lots that fit what they design or desire. He the assumed demand for larger lots has been proven untrue.
Justin Spicer, who is one of the owners of the land in Sweetwater Station, introduced himself as commonly known as Satan. He said he was astounded by the amount of opposition the proposal has received.
He said that the decision before the City Council was a PUD amendment and not a zoning change. Besides the size requirement, he said all other conditions remained the same. Spicer added that any property from phase one would fit on the smallest lot under the proposed phase two change.
“We’re not trying to put in a trailer park,” he said.
There was also division on the council whether a resolution on the PUD was the right way to change lot sizes.
Councilman David Halter asked why they had minimum lot requirements if they weren’t going to use them. He said passing the proposed PUD set a precedent to go against their own requirements.
Councilman Rob Zotti said this type of change is what a PUD is designed to address.
In the end, Councilmen Halter, Tim Savage and Billy Shalata and Councilwoman Glennise Wendorf voted against the PUD; Councilwoman Jeannie Demas and Councilmen David Tate and Zotti voted for it; and Kaumo and West abstained.
-- The city of Rock Springs became the last entity to sign a revised air service enhancement agreement after it was passed by the Sweetwater County Commission and Green River City Council earlier Tuesday. Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport Director Devon Brubaker explained they weren’t seeking more funding for the minimum revenue guarantee; they were only extending the time of the contract as they work on a new agreement for larger-capacity service.
“Thank you for not asking for more money,” Councilman Zotti said.
-- Mayor Kaumo read a proclamation declaring September to Be Muscular Dystrophy Awareness Month in Rock Springs. The city urges residents to support the Fill the Boot fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association led by the Rock Springs Fire Department from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 at the Rock Springs Walmart.
“Let’s get out and help these guys,” the mayor added.
-- Multiple appointments were improved including Justin Lemon starting his first term on the Board of Adjustment, Blake Manus filling the unexpired term of Lauren Schoenfeld on the Planning and Zoning Commission and Breanna Jackman filling the unexpired term of Gregory R.C. Hasman on the Rock Springs Historical Museum Board.
-- The council voted to partner with Rocky Mountain Power to start a community art pilot program, which will allow local artists to decorate electrical boxes. Designs would have to be approved by a committee before being painted.
-- Members of the Rock Springs City Council approved two contracts for upcoming performances at the Broadway Theater. Under the agreements, The Young Dubliners will perform on Nov. 15 in exchange for $2,500 and 80 percent of the gross box office receipts, and The Great DuBois: Master of Variety will perform a two-person circus on Jan. 8, 2020, for $4,000.
-- Road closures were approved for multiple events including the Tiger Town Bash, which will close North Front Street from Fifth Street to K Street from 3:30 p.m. until the event concludes on Sept. 5, and an Eagles Club membership event, which will close B Street from Second Street to Broadway from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Aug. 23. The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of Rock Springs also received approval to close N Street from Pilot Butte Avenue to the Rock Springs Civic Center from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 14-15 for a tree removal.
-- The City Council passed a request from the Department of Engineering/Operations & Public Services to fill a vacant planning technician position with two voting against the request.