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City continues discussions on mixed-use development

SHERIDAN — The process of revising the ordinance for planned unit developments continues as city staff and council members strive to balance the concerns of community residents with the desires of developers.

On Monday, City Council pulled Ordinance 2147 off the table and approved several amendments to the ordinance on second reading. However, a few councilors noted they would not approve those same amendments on third reading June 16 and asked city Planning and Development Director Robert Briggs to continue tweaking the ordinance.

Planned unit developments allow developers to include mixed uses, such as business and residential, in one development. When land is zoned PUD, it may allow higher density than what the land was zoned previously, but that is offset with more open space, areas that promote community living or other amenities.

Examples of PUDs in Sheridan include Bridge Creek Estates near Kendrick Park, Holly Ponds near the hospital and Blue Sky Court on Sheridan Avenue near Sheltered Acres Park.

The PUD ordinance was created in the late 1990s, so it is not particularly old, Briggs has said, but interpreting the ordinance has caused confusion in a few proposed developments. The Sheridan Planning Commission recommended amendments last summer to clarify the process.

On Monday, Briggs told the council he had sent the revised PUD ordinance to developers who had recently gone through the PUD process or who had completed multi-phase PUDs to solicit feedback. He has also been working with resident Nel Dahmke who has made suggestions on the ordinance revision from the perspective of a neighbor to a proposed PUD.

Dahmke suggested in an email to Briggs that the ordinance be clearer on how a PUD zoning district was applied and urged that the public works director not be able to approve changes to the PUD administratively. She added that if the public works director was allowed to approve changes, he or she should be required to follow certain parameters (such as not changing density, building height or open space amounts) and should notify adjacent neighbors to allow resident feedback.

Developers said they were generally satisfied with the revised language but that they were concerned about limiting development density when a PUD was placed adjacent to an existing neighborhood. The revised PUD ordinance states that when 50 percent or more of the continuous boundary of a proposed PUD district is adjacent to previously developed properties, the PUD density shall be no greater than 125 percent of the adjacent neighborhood.

Developers also said they would like the ordinance to distinguish between greenfield development on land at the edge of town and infill development on plots within developed areas of town, stating that requirements may be different for each type of PUD.

City councilors were divided on which revisions were appropriate.

Councilors Alex Lee and Shelleen Smith said they would hesitate to limit a developer to a certain density because doing so could hurt developers’ prospects.

“We need to incentivize developers to build out Sheridan,” Lee said.

Councilman John Heath and Mayor Dave Kinskey said they would entirely remove the section limiting density in PUDs. Heath said he liked the ordinance passed on first reading, which did not require notification for nearby residents or limit public works director approval. He said a letter from one resident was not enough to justify so many changes.

Councilwoman Kristin Kelly said she felt there did need to be more oversight in order to balance developers’ needs with the concerns of residents.

Councilman Robert Webster expressed concern about the change that stated that public rights-of-way and areas with above ground utility easements would not count toward required open space.

The amended PUD ordinance will be considered on third and final reading June 16. Public comments will be taken before the council makes suggested changes of its own and votes on the ordinance.

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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