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SHERIDAN — The first conservation subdivision to be considered in Sheridan County received the go-ahead on step one of its journey toward becoming an official subdivision dedicated to preserving open space.
The Sheridan County Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the permit for the McMeans Conservation Subdivision west of Dayton at its meeting Thursday.
A conservation subdivision is a residential subdivision that designates a substantial (at least 70 percent) portion of its land as permanently protected open space while homes are located on the remainder of the site. Development is fit into the subdivision to maximize protection of natural and/or cultural resources.
The subdivision must now be approved by the Dayton Town Council and the Sheridan County Commissioners.
According to a staff report about the project by county Planner Mark Reid, the conservation subdivision will consist of 80.22 acres of property west of Dayton that is traversed by Tongue Canyon Road (County Road 92) going into Tongue River Canyon. The land is zoned agricultural.
The subdivision will include three residential lots ranging in size from 2.2 to 4.17 acres. The conservation parcel will be 71.24 acres on unplatted land along the river that includes farmland and extensive riparian areas and wildlife habitats.
Lots one and two have private water and a septic system. There is an existing residence on lot one. Lot three will be connected to Dayton’s public water and sewer system and will require approval before being developed.
The owners have granted a conservation easement to Sheridan Community Land Trust for the 71-acre conservation lot.
The land trust will manage the area through semi-annual visits to confirm that conservation values are upheld.
Each year, the land trust will complete a formal monitoring report.
The property is home to myriad wildlife including elk, moose, red fox, sand hill cranes and eagles.
Two variances were approved before the subdivision permit was allowed.
The first variance exempted the landowner from completing a Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality water/sewer study that was required because a portion of the land is on Groundwater Protection Area.
The second variance asked for exemption from boundary monument requirements because the river is a natural boundary and there is a fence post to mark the other boundary. The planning board amended the variance to require a boundary monument to be placed instead of a fence post since fences can erode or be moved. Public comments mainly concerned the boundary line.
At this point, Community Land Trust Executive Director Colin Betzler said the landowner will not allow public fishing access to the river but does have the right to work with Game and Fish to allow access if they so choose.
According to Bernie Bornong, planning board chair, objectives were set for conserving open space and Wyoming’s quality of life during the process of creating the county’s comprehensive plan.
“One of the things was to come up with a conservation design regulation so that we could reward property owners for maintaining those open spaces and quality of life considerations that people really enjoy in this community,” Bornong said. “We think that this is just a really positive development.”