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SHERIDAN — Progress continues on development of a Sheridan Land Use Plan with completion of a zoning policy analysis and a draft land use map that shows actual uses of land in Sheridan versus what land may be zoned.
Orion Planning Group, which has been hired to spearhead the project, and a steering committee for the plan have also prepared a statistically valid survey that will assess the public’s view on zoning, development, land use, city amenities and services and more. The survey will be sent to a random sample of city residents using city utility account data in coming weeks.
City Planning and Development Director Robert Briggs met with the Planning Commission in a work session Monday to discuss progress on the land use plan.
Work on the plan began in January and is expected to be complete, with adoption by the Planning Commission and Sheridan City Council, in winter 2015.
The policy analysis examined how successfully current land use regulations — such as city codes, the city’s zoning ordinance, various subdivision regulations and building codes — are used to implement various policies and master plans including the city-county joint land use plan, East Fifth Street corridor plan, North Main Area Master Plan, Parks and Recreation Master Plan and more.
The analysis accomplished this by identifying six major land development themes, or goals, that appear in two or more plans, as well as five other issues that could potentially have a significant impact on land use, Briggs said.
The six major development themes include:
• Support infill and redevelopment
• Provide a full range/diverse mix of housing options
• Provide a full range of transportation and multi-modal options (bike, car, public transit, pedestrian pathways)
• Provide a connected park and pathways system
• Protect important historic places
• Protect and enhance natural resources
The five other issues that could impact land use in Sheridan include keeping urban development compact; designating commercial centers rather than spreading out in strips of commercial buildings; creating a downtown zoning district; supporting adaptive reuse of buildings around town (as has been done with places like Black Tooth Brewing Company and Warehouse 201); and using conservation and/or cluster housing design in new development.
Briggs said conservation housing design means not looking at natural resources such as hills and riparian areas as something to be pushed out of the way for development but rather something to work into development, which often results in clusters of housing interspersed with pockets of green space, which can make a development feel more spacious and pleasing.
The policy analysis also identified current regulations and development practices that are in direct conflict with implementing desired development goals. Briggs identified these as challenges that will likely be addressed in the new Sheridan Land Use Plan.
For example, overapplication of industrial M1 zoning in Sheridan’s early years, especially along Coffeen Avenue which was zoned to accommodate the sugar factory, has resulted in a situation where, technically, someone could open an industrial plant next to a single family residence or drill for oil next to Walmart.
That same concern is expressed in the city’s use of “pyramidal zoning” where each zoning district builds on previous districts which can result in possibly undesired mixed uses in B2 and M1 zones.
“We need to consider what uses are compatible,” Briggs said.
Other challenges include a lack of downtown housing to populate the downtown and keep it alive after normal business hours, which could be addressed through specific downtown zoning that fosters mixed use buildings and residential units above businesses.
Unpredictable business zoning causes uncertainty for developers, Briggs said. He cited as an example that the most expensive land in town near the intersection of Brundage Lane and Coffeen Avenue could include a junkyard next to a restaurant.
“If you’re paying a high-dollar amount for land on Coffeen and Brundage to build a restaurant, do you want someone to be able to put a junkyard next to you?” Briggs said.
Briggs also said that pushing higher density development, such as apartment complexes, to the edge of city limits rather than closer to the urban core can strain city utilities and lead to leapfrog development and sprawl.
Moving ahead, the public survey will be finalized and sent out to a random sample of Sheridan resident. Also, the steering committee and Orion Planning Group will work on field verification of the draft land use map to more accurately identify actual land use versus zoning.