SHERIDAN — Sheridan City Council voted not to approve a rezone to the old Highland Park School property on Avon Street in a 3-4 vote Monday night.
The rezone would have allowed the developer, Jim Bede, to repurpose the old school building to house 14 two-bedroom units.
Councilwoman Erin Hanke, Councilman Alex Lee and Councilman Thayer Shafer voted to approve the rezone.
Council’s decision came after several community members spoke out against the project, citing concerns about increased traffic and density in the neighborhood, as well as concerns that if the rezone was granted, the city would have no way to ensure Bede would develop the property according to the plans he has presented.
“What Mr. Bede is proposing is a conceptual plan, and there is a difference between conceptual and contractual,” said Echo Mendenhall, a resident who lives near the Highland Park property. “…If [the rezone] is voted in, Mr. Bede’s conceptual plan is only governed by his integrity. He could at any point change the plan and build anything allowed by R3 zoning.”
Before council voted, Councilman Patrick Henderson asked Bede if he would consider reapplying to rezone the property as a planned unit development, which would attach conditions to the rezone so that the development of the property could not significantly deviate from the plans Bede has presented the city.
Bede said a PUD would not be ideal, but he would be open to zoning the property as a PUD if it would ease some of the neighbors’ concerns.
“My objective was to save the school [building] and expedite its reuse,” Bede said. “I’m not opposed to letting the neighborhood know what it’s going to be…I don’t think I’m going to deviate from what I’ve shown, but I understand you would like something in writing, in a sense. If that’s what it came down to, I’m not opposed to that.”
Councilman Richard Bridger, Council President Kelly Gooch and Mayor Roger Miller prefaced their votes by saying they would like to see the property rezoned as a PUD.
After the rezone failed, Lee suggested council and city staff expedite Bede’s reapplication process. Gooch and Miller agreed with the suggestion.
“This is a very good project that we want to see more on,” Miller said.
Though public comments were largely opposed to the rezone, some community members spoke in favor of the project. Peter Pelissier, who owns the Mountain View Veterinary Hospital, said the project would address a need for affordable housing in the community.
“There is a shortage for homes like this,” Pelissier said. “Especially in the price point and size Mr. Bede is proposing. As someone who tries to recruit employees to Sheridan…I can get a lot of them to interview, but then they start talking to realtors and there is just nothing in that price point.”
• Council approved the first reading of an ordinance to regulate mobile vendors in the city. Fees related to mobile vending permits will be suggested as a separate ordinance alongside the third reading of the mobile vending regulations.
• Council also approved the first reading of a new public records request policy, the second reading of an annexation of the Big Horn Loop into city limits and the third reading of an ordinance related to grave markers.
• Council voted to approve a contract between the city and Watch Guard, which will allow the Sheridan Police Department to purchase 30 body-worn cameras for its officers.
• Council approved a resolution that lays out the distribution of projected Optional One-Cent Sales Tax funds for fiscal year 2020. A complete list of the recipients, and the amounts awarded, is available through the city’s website.