SHERIDAN — Sheridan County planning staff and commissioners expect a long, busy night Thursday as they’ll hear comments and debate regarding a property located near Acme that landowners would like to rezone as industrial.
Ramaco Wyoming Coal Co., LLC has applied to rezone approximately 114.23 acres from agricultural to industrial. The company plans to create manufacturing and research facilities on the property with the aim of creating carbon fiber products.
“Sheridan County needs to grow and diversify its tax base and an ideal way to do that is with the addition of privately funded light manufacturing and technology oriented jobs that pay well and attract skilled (workers) and their families to this area,” the letter of intent from Ramaco’s attorney Anthony T. Wendtland states. “Sheridan will not grow and develop in a valuable way by just adding more coffee shops. It needs real jobs that generate serious new economic activity and taxes.”
While the company’s representatives contend that the change in zoning fits the county’s Comprehensive Plan from 2008, some neighbors disagree.
The Sheridan County Comprehensive plan includes an asterisk on the map that the key indicates could be the home of future industry. That asterisk falls right next to the property Ramaco proposes to develop.
Several neighbors have submitted letters to the Sheridan County Public Works Department, some in favor of the rezone and some against it. Those against it cite the value of the agricultural land and the Tongue River Valley. Some also cite the fact that the company’s plans to utilize coal from the proposed Brook Mine is based on the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s approval of a mine permit, which was denied last year. The denial has since been appealed and is working its way throughthe court system.
The letter of intent from Wendtland, though, points out that the coal mine is a separate project. He indicates that the coal mine project is relevant only to show that the area will likely see other industrial development in coming months and years. In addition, the letter from Wendtland states that the company intends to move forward with the facilities and does not need to have “the Brook Mine operating at this time in order to do so.”
Those in favor of the project voice support for new jobs in the area and the historically industrial and extractive industries that have existed in the area. Among those supporting the project are the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce and other local business owners.
“This project will strengthen the health of our community, allow one of our community’s businesses to achieve its full potential, and could very well make Sheridan County a leader in the future development of carbon-related products,” the Chamber’s letter of support said.
Ramaco’s letter of intent states that the research and manufacturing facilities could initially provide 20-40 jobs in the community, with the possibility for growth.
County staff recognized that the industrial zoning allows for a broad range of permitted uses, some with few, if any, negative consequences, others with the potential to produce undesirable impacts.
“Because of the spectrum of uses that are accommodated with an I-2 district, decision makers do have (within the authority granted by the zoning regulations) the unilateral capacity to initiate rezoning the property back to its original Agricultural district, should this application be approved and the proposed uses not be pursued,” the staff report to the Sheridan County Planning and Zoning Commission reads.
The county staff recommended approval of the rezone application.
While the issue will go before the commission at its meeting set to begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the rezone will also have to go before the Sheridan County commissioners, giving area residents and landowners additional opportunities to voice their opinions on the application.