County commissioners reject proposed rezone of land near Ranchester

SHERIDAN — Five parcels of land near Ranchester proposed to be rezoned from urban residential to agricultural as part of the county’s comprehensive plan will keep their current zoning as requested by a majority of affected property owners.

Four of five Sheridan County Commissioners voted Tuesday to reject the proposed rezone, which would have impacted 18 landowners. Commissioner Terry Cram voted in favor of the rezone, stating it would save money and maintain the county’s comprehensive plan.

“The plan calls for us to consolidate the zones and try to get them into the development going on along the edge of the towns and cities, rather than leap-frogging out into the county where it costs all the more for services — police, fires, schools, utilities. It costs the county tons of money to service those people out there, so we’d like to get the development going on in pods as close to the population centers as we can,” Cram said.

Commissioner Tom Ringley said the county completed two similar rezones of nearly 10,000 acres near Dayton and Ranchester without much objection. Commissioners originally thought residents would be in favor of the rezone and were surprised when so many sent letters of protest and spoke against it at the County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting April 4.

At that meeting, nine property owners spoke regarding the proposed rezone, two in favor and seven against. All five members of the planning and zoning commission voted against the rezone.

Those against the proposed rezone cited private property rights. Many said they bought land zoned urban residential because of its property value and the ability to develop the land. One resident, Larry Hoover, was in the process of subdividing his land to give to children and grandchildren but had to stop when the county placed a freeze on subdivisions in preparation for the rezone.

Proponents of the rezone said they didn’t want to lose prime agricultural land to development. Some said they use their land for agricultural purposes but pay higher urban residential taxes on it. County commissioners reminded landowners they have the ability to rezone their land to match how they use it. They also noted that taxes are based on how land is used not how it is zoned.

“In this case, we’re a little closer to town and there’s some people it would create a hardship for and they objected to it. We’re not in the habit of forcing people to rezone when it doesn’t make sense to them. It was a good idea; we explored it; and we didn’t do it,” Ringley said. “This commission is not in the business of taking people’s property.”

With the rezone rejected, commissioners approved a motion to cease the temporary freeze on subdividing.
In other business:

• Ken Muller, county engineer, recommended the county consider a request by 10 Parkman residents to remove areas of publicly dedicated right-of-way along State Highway 345 from North Street to Tshirgi Street. If passed, the streets and alleys would become the property of adjacent landowners. The areas were platted as right-of-way in 1894 but were never used by the general public. A public comment period will close May 31, and the commissioners will likely vote on the vacation request June 4.
• County commissioners signed a lease agreement with the Sheridan Health Center for its new location at the back of the Public Health Building. Rent was set at $1 per year so that funds may be used to provide medical care to Sheridan County’s uninsured, low-income adult population.
• County commissioners renewed retail liquor and malt beverage permits for 21 county businesses.

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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