SUBLETTE COUNTY – Two very different but impactful rezoning applications received majority votes of approval from Sublette County commissioners at their Aug. 2 meeting.
Citizens attended to speak for and against rezoning two agricultural properties that will likely increase highway traffic between Pinedale and Jackson, as well as at the actual intersections of Highways 191, 189 and 354, or Horse Creek Road.
That specific impact, among other concerns voiced on Tuesday, will not be studied until a developer submits a subdivision request to the Sublette County Planning & Zoning Office.
Rezoning approval is the first step; the second is proposing how to carve a property into its newly approved configurations. That’s when the citizens’ concerns about water quality, increased traffic, proper access and wildlife obstacles are addressed, officials told them.
This article will focus on the first rezoning request by Danielle Dover, owner of The Dorothy Noble Trust, at the Daniel Junction.
Sublette County Planner Dennis Fornstrom presented Dover’s request to rezone 28.5 acres, zoned agricultural, at the three-way intersection by Daniel. The application requested six light-industrial lots on 14.9 acres, two highway commercial lots at 6.2 acres and one multiple-family residential (MFR) lot on 7.3 acres. It proposed seven duplexes, one on each acre, for 14 units.
The commission voted approval, 4-1, after a long question-and-answer and public comment period.
Earlier, the Planning & Zoning Board had voted, 2-3, against recommending commissioners’ approval, Fornstrom said. Board members Maike Tan, Pat Burroughs and Chris Lacinak cast the negative votes; chair Blake Greenhalgh and Ken Marincik voted to approve the rezoning.
“One reason was having the ‘light industrial’ against the highway,’” Fornstrom said.
The board preferred more commercial uses and “the MFR was a concern,” he added.
Dover’s representative Ryan Wells said the property has little ag value and the three zones would use it to its best potential “at three of the busiest highways in the county. Light-industrial uses would be for tradespeople and small businesses, he said, and covenants could keep them from looking “unsightly.”
Buildings could be required to have “an architectural finish that makes sense,” Wells said.
Commissioner Tom Noble noted, “You’re taking this upon yourself” to create covenants.
Fornstrom said WYDOT, an adjacent landowner, was asked about the proposal but “had not answered” about access approaches that would be addressed in future subdivision applications. Dover said there should be less traffic entering and exiting than the Pinedale Industrial Site and she envisions light industrial businesses such as a plumber, a local propane company or a sanitation company.
Commissioner Dave Stephens reminded Dover that the WYDOT site had contaminated soil; she said, “It’s been completely mitigated.”
Commissioner Doug Vickrey asked if as many as 20 water wells would be needed for 14 residential units and “all the different projects.”
Would sewage disposal be an aboveground or belowground leachfields and was Dover monitoring effluent flow to the nearby Green River, he asked.
Fornstrom estimated nine wells, one for each lot – “There is water in the area.”
A perc test and aquifer studies are done at the next subdivision stage, Fornstrom said.
Chair Joel Bousman said then the Sublette County Conservation District, State Engineer’s Office and Department of Environmental Quality would be involved.
Vickrey continued his concerns about the water supply.
“That’s the risk (the owners) are taking right now,” Fornstrom said. “A risk they are assuming.”
Bousman shared concerns about access and public safety off Highway 354. “At some point, if we approve this zone change, you may be required to put in a turn lane. WYDOT would be in charge of making that determination. So that’s also a risk.”
Stephens asked Dover if they had contacted neighbors who were concerned about property values; she said they had not yet.
Commissioners discussed liability of the county attaching restrictions to a subdivision plat. Fornstrom said attaching covenant restrictions to plats makes them easier to enforce. The P&Z board and office are in the process of rewriting zoning regulations but this application follows rules as they are now.
Daniel resident Tia Leo said her home is closest to the proposed MFR lots and she and neighbors were not informed. “There are more than 100 houses down that ridge (along Horse Creek).”
Access off Highway 189 would be safer; “there’s a massive amount of people living on this road.”
The Dover property light-industrial and MFR zones would not be “appropriate” for the residential area and approving this request would “open the door” for other ag landowners to develop around the junction. She also questioned parking.
“We would be a housing development for Jackson,” she said. “It would not be a benefit to Pinedale itself.”
“(Traffic and access) would be relevant at the application for subdivision, when it’s time to develop,” Bousman said.
Leo asked about water aquifer effects – “Will our well water be reduced?”
She told commissioners the county’s goal #2 is to protect property values. “Who wants to live next door to that?”
County goal #8 is to protect ag lands; “You are setting a precedent for A-1 land. This is a pivotal moment today.”
She talked to the town clerk at Star Valley who said 85 percent of development is now housing for Jackson employees and dairy farms and small businesses have gone away.
Mary Washam was very concerned about how to prevent a septic system from polluting the nearby creeks and Green River. Fornstrom assured her that every major subdivision system along Horse Creek was studied before development.
Dewitt Morris, owner of Green River Exploration’s small building, favored the rezoning and commented about Pinedale Town Council’s look at low-income housing.
Vickrey pointed out cattle do graze on the land as it is.
Stephens said his “big concern” was access from Highway 191, which he thought would increase the possibility of dangerous collisions.
Noble moved to approve the rezoning application, clarifying he is not related to the Dorothy Noble Trust that Dover owns; Vickrey seconded it.
Bousman acknowledged, “relevant concerns brought up” for Fornstrom to address. “They are legitimate concerns but premature.”
Vickrey said he is not against development but some places are more appropriate “and I don’t believe at this point in time this is one of them.”
He cast the lone vote against approving the Dover-Noble rezoning request.