ROCK SPRINGS — The Rock Springs City Council voted to approve a preliminary plat for an addition to the Sweetwater Station development in North Rock Springs at the December 17 council meeting.
The approval came over the objections of homeowners in Phase 1 of the development, who said they can continue to block further development, regardless of the council vote, through their home owners association (HOA). Residents who spoke at the meeting said they won’t allow Sweetwater Station Phase 2 to be developed until a plan meets their demands for larger lot sizes and fewer lots.
City Planner Laura Leigh spoke to the council for 40 minutes, outlining the history of the development and what authority the city has to approve development plans under current regulations. Leigh recommended that the council approve the proposed changes to the development plan. “The preliminary development plan meets all the requirements that are outlined and required for a PUD[Planned Unit Development],” Leigh said. “I personally don’t see anything that would keep the council from voting for this other than you’re putting that burden back on the developer that they would have to work this out before coming back to the city.”
Members of the Sweetwater Station HOA told the council that they won’t be willing to work out an agreement with the developer under the resolution before them; “to increase the number of planned lots within the undeveloped Sweetwater Station, Phase 2 area from 28 lots to 55 lots,” according to the resolution. That’s a large density increase from the original concept, but also a big concession from changes the council rejected back in August, which would have increased the number of lots to 73.
The new plan, submitted by developer 4D Construction, is a proposed compromise, but HOA members say 55 is still too many new lots. Resident Jay Schneiders told the council that members of the HOA will continue to block development of lot sizes at that density. “The proposal before the city council tonight will never be approved by the HOA,” Schneiders said.
Councilor Rob Zotti pointed out that while approval of the plan might not lead to actual construction, a preliminary plat would at least allow utility studies to move forward, perhaps providing answers to objections raised that water utilities in the area wouldn’t be able to support the increased lot density.
“Going forward, I wish, whatever the outcome of this vote is, that you would consider meeting again and coming up with a compromise that you can all live with,” Councilor Billy Shalata said.
Councilor Keaton West and Mayor Tim Kaumo abstained from the vote, while the seven other council members all voted in favor of the resolution.
Recreational Vehicle Parking
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council discussed a draft lease agreement for a vacant lot on Blue Sage Way. The agreement was drawn up at the request of State Senator Tom James, but in his role as a resident rather than a legislator. Although the lease could be between the city and any interested individual. James wants to take the property over from the city so that he and his neighbors can use it as a parking area for recreational vehicles and the like.
However, James said at the meeting that he now wants to pursue buying, rather than leasing, the property as he is, “not overly thrilled with the lease itself.” Councilor Rob Zotti pointed out that even if sold, the city could retain some control over how the property is used through deed restrictions.
Lots like the one in question on Blue Sage Way are the result of a requirement that an area was left undeveloped for a park or green space when the developments were being built. However, that often resulted in an awkward leftover lot that in many cases have been left undeveloped and unsightly. “They end up being weed infested, not so glamorous portions of the land. Usually a drainage, a corner that didn’t fit,” Kaumo said.
“That is our standard and our ordinance is give open space, the alternative is fees in lieu of … that needs to be switched. We need to have the fees in lieu of as the requirement,” Leigh said.
All the same, since the land is city property, residents have received warnings for parking vehicles on the empty lots. In order for the city to sell the property, it will have to be appraised and put out for bids. “It is an issue,” Kaumo said. “Wyoming residents have 2,500 square feet of living space and 6,700 square feet of RV space … but they’re also dangerous on the street. We can’t sweep, we can’t remove ice, we can’t remove snow. There needs to be a fix for this.”
In this case, selling the lot would get property the city has no plans to develop off the books and get RVs and trailers off of the street and overcrowded driveways.
Council Losing Patience with County over 6th Penny Tax
During the council committee and board reports, West spoke as the council’s liaison for to Specific Purpose Tax Committee. West said when entities met with the Board of County Commissioners on December 5 the list of proposed projects for the tax totaled $182 million dollars. “We left that day without much direction or finalization of numbers,” West said. West then read a list of things he thinks need to be kept in mind as discussions on the proposed tax move forward.
- The next six cent tax will not pass without Rock Springs’ support. Rock Springs makes up 54% of the county’s population.
- We need the commissioners to determine exactly how much they’re willing to float on the ballot. It’s time to finalize the number.
- We [Rock Springs] want our fair share of this amount and we need to know from the commissioners how much that’s going to be.
- Once we know our share, we will decide what projects to put before the public and we will decide how much goes to infrastructure or quality of life improvements. It takes two-thirds of the incorporated communities and the county to get this finalized to be on the ballot.
- We have worked hard, delivered what’s been and asked and shown selflessness by cutting $18 million off the top of our own infrastructure projects to put other needs and requests before us. To me, that shows fair and balanced governance.
West’s final point was a recommendation that Mayor Kaumo draft a letter to the Board of County Commissioners highlighting these items and their significance. “I agree whole heartedly and if it seems fit, I will draft a letter for everyone to review and we will send that letter to the board,” Kaumo said.
“When we look at some of these projects … if you look at the populations of these communities, some of these per-person, the cost is astronomical,” Councilor Zotti said. In a not-too-subtle comment directed toward the City of Green River, Zotti added that, “We still have one community out there that has failed to prioritize their projects for whatever reason after two different separate requests. So, that’s what’s holding some of this up.”
We shared this live during the meeting, but how about one more shout out to Seth Atkinson, who was honored by the council for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. For his Eagle Scout project, Seth built garden boxes for Able Hands. Very cool!