By Ann Jantz, wyo4news.com
Rock Springs, Wyoming — Residents of Sweetwater Station Addition Phase 1 were visibly relieved after Rock Springs City Council voted not to approve a resolution which would change the minimum lot acreage and development size originally planned for Sweetwater Station Addition Phase 2 near Northpark Elementary School and adjacent to Phase 1.
The resolution failed on a vote of 4-3, with Councilmen Billy Shalata, Glennise Wendorf, David Halter and Tim Savage posting the no votes. Voting in favor of the resolution were Councilmen Rob Zotti, Jeanne Demas and David Tate. Mayor Tim Kaumo and Councilman Keaton West abstained.
West cited a conflict of interest, saying he had family members and a business partner living in the Phase 1 development.
Halter’s concern with approving the changes centered on Council setting a precedence of going against its own ordinance. He said he would like a plan that would meet in the middle and satisfy both side on this issue.
Residents against and in favor of the proposed planned unit development (PUD) changes were heard during the public hearing portion of Tuesday’s Council meeting. Those against the changes were heard first, followed by those speaking in favor of the changes.
An Issue With Size And Legality
Phase 1 homeowners Jay Schneiders, Fred von Ahrens and Daniel Pedri represented a group of property owners who did not want the development changes as proposed. Schneiders said nobody in Phase 1 was against developing Phase 2; instead, they took issue with the high density of homes in the proposed plan and the legality of the actions taken by Planning and Zoning when the PUD was proposed.
“Council does not have the authority to re-zone de facto,” Schneiders argued. Offering a compromise, he provided a new plan which would provide for 37 lots in Phase 2, ranging in size from .75 acres to 1.23 acres, instead of the proposed 74 lots.
Von Ahrens said he was shocked when he learned the development was increased from 23 lots to 74, “way outside RE (Rural Estates)” as it was originally planned. He said such a change would limit the city’s ability to attract buyers who want larger lots, as well as reveal the city’s problem with long-term planning. He noted many people proud to make Rock Springs their home could have trust and ethical concerns with Council’s actions.
“We fight for the brand but don’t want to feel like we’re branded,” Ahrens said.
Pedri asked Council to honor and preserve Dr. Tom Spicer’s original vision of Phase 2. He agreed there is a shortage of lots in Rock Springs on which to build, but also noted the large number of homes on the market for sale because of a shortage of buyers.
Providing Lots And Affordable Homes
Speaking in favor of the changes were JFC representative Daniel Kennedy, Mike Hayden of Hayden Construction, Smart Dwellings co-owner Justin Lemon, and Sweetwater Station property owner Dr. Tom Spicer. The men argued the proposed changes to the Phase 2 development plan would still result in large lots but would also make it more affordable and easier to sell the lots.
Hayden pointed out it took 13-15 years to sell all the Phase 1 lots due primarily to their size and cost. He said providing affordable lots to the consumer “should be part of this conversation.” He added he hopes the city tries to help developers and provide lots when they are able.
“It’s impossible to build a home when you don’t have lots,” he said.
Kennedy said PUDs must change in order to conform and meet the needs of the community, and smaller lot sizes will sell in a more reasonable amount of time.
Lemon said when Phase 1 was built, there was an assumption there would be a high demand for these homes. However, considering the long time it took to sell the larger lots they can see there is not high demand for them. Making Phase 2 lots smaller would make the lots available to a larger portion of the population, he added.
“The market isn’t there for large homes,” he said.
Spicer addressed some of the other concerns voiced by Phase 1 homeowners. He said traffic would only be affected on the feeder streets into the developments and property values would not drop because the plans for Phase 2 would still create a “very nice development” with large lots.
“These are not small lots,” he said. “We’re not trying to put in a trailer court.”
Spicer did agree the plan changes would affect views of White Mountain, but he said he did not sell the property owners White Mountain. Additionally, he was surprised by the opposition because he said the higher home density would help block wind, dust and snow and would increase water pressure to Phase 1.