Concerns remain as high-density development inches forward
Date posted: March 8, 2013
SHERIDAN – The Sheridan Planning Commission will consider a new development at its meeting Monday that has been and continues to be a controversial topic among surrounding residents.
Phoenix Limited Partnership, whose registered agent is Sheridan Media owner Kim Love, has submitted plans to develop two tracts of land totaling 6.84 acres on the northeast corner of Brundage Lane and Big Horn Avenue. The Skyview West Development will require that the two tracts of land be rezoned from R-3 Residential to Planned Unit Development, which allows for a variety of land uses and dwelling options including single-family and multi-family, multi-story units. As many as 75 multi-story units have been proposed.
Residents of the Colony South neighborhood on Colonial Drive and Edwards Drive, who own homes adjacent to or nearby the proposed development, met Tuesday to discuss concerns — both past and present — about the use and zoning of this parcel of land.
“The homeowners had a lively discussion about the proposed development, voicing questions, concerns and potential mitigation of concerns,” Colony South resident JT Richer said. “No consensus was reached, and it was agreed to carry forth the questions and concerns to the planning commission.”
Richer and three other residents have been acting as delegates from Colony South, which does not have an official homeowners association, to provide information flow between city officials, land developers and concerned residents.
Development of the property has been an ongoing controversy since the mid-1990s. Residents in the Colony South area have submitted three petitions or letters of concern to city officials — in 1998, 2009 and 2011 — regarding zoning changes. According to Richer, current concerns include traffic, parking, safety, water pressure and open space issues, as well as the size of the proposed development and the perceived negative impact on property values.
“It’s an extremely emotional issue,” Richer said. “There are a lot of unknowns right now.”
A brief history
According to a chronology of events compiled by city Planning and Development Director Robert Briggs, the two tracts of land at the corner of Brundage Lane and Big Horn Avenue, now owned by Phoenix Limited Partnership, have been the subject of several purchases, subdivisions, rezoning attempts and proposed developments since 1996.
In 1998, the Sheridan City Council approved a rezone of Tract 1, an approximately three-acre triangle adjacent to Brundage Lane and Big Horn Avenue, from R-1 to R-3 Residential, which allows multi-family, multi-story units. Tract 2, a three-acre triangle adjacent to the Colony South neighborhood, retained its R-1 zoning as a petition from nearby residents requested.
In 2010, Phoenix Limited Partnership sued the city over a zoning discrepancy between the city zoning map, which labeled both tracts as R-3, and a city ordinance that labeled Tract 1 as R-3 and Tract 2 as R-1. A summary judgment from the 4th Judicial Court ruled in favor of the zoning map and said both tracts should be considered R-3.
In a recent email to the Press addressing these issues, Briggs said the decision by the court is binding and the city officially considers both tracts to be zoned R-3, as reflected in its official zoning map.
In the 2010 court case, city attorney Greg Von Krosigk represented the municipality in the case.
In court, the Pheonix Limited Partnership asked for a declaratory judgment that would determine Tract 2 of the subdivision to be zoned R-3 Residential under the laws of the city of Sheridan. The ruling would also compel the city to adopt a color-coded GIS map produced in 2000 as the official district zoning map for the city. This map showed both Tracts 1 and 2 of the subdivision to be zoned R-3 Residential.
An affidavit brought by Love stated that he relied on the zoning map when he purchased Tract 2 of the Ferries Minor Subdivision for $336,505 in 2006. He paid $215,229.96 to purchase Tract 1 in 2002. The affidavit says Love believed both tracts of land were zoned R-3 Residential, and thus suitable for apartment complexes. Love said he would not have purchased Tract 2 if it was zoned R-1 and that he would lose money if the zoning was changed and he was no longer able to move ahead with planned developments.
The court ruled in favor of Phoenix Limited Partnership and declared both tracts should be considered R-3 Residential.
Nel Dahmke, a concerned resident with property adjacent to the proposed development, questioned the ruling on two counts. She said there was lack of notification or public process for the case and she said there was a disclaimer on the map stating that the map was for informational purposes only and should be used “as is” with no warranties that would prevent damages from the use of the map.
Seeking compromise in a PUD
In May 2011, according to Dahmke, more than 200 nearby residents signed a petition asking that Tract 2 of the Ferries Minor Subdivision be officially rezoned back to R-1 Residential.
The petition was tabled and has been neither retracted nor addressed by Sheridan City Council. Briggs said it was his understanding that the property owners would select representatives to meet with city staff to discuss the project and that the petition would be considered “on hold” until Phoenix Limited Partnership submitted a revised development for consideration.
In June 2011, city officials met with concerned residents to discuss possible compromises for development.
According to Briggs, city staff presented a PUD process as an option for development to allow discussion and public input. As an example of how a PUD might work, he said staff may have mentioned single-family and duplex homes as a possibility for the land adjacent to Colony South.
Dahmke was under the impression this would be accomplished by using a PUD overlay that would not allow two-story units to be included in the development.
“We, the property owners, in good faith accepted the PUD overlay compromise,” Dahmke said. “Why are the city officials going back on their word? We’re back to square one.”
However, Briggs said there was a misunderstanding of what a PUD overlay can do. He said the only difference between rezoning to PUD and using a PUD overlay is that an overlay sets the maximum density of the PUD to be the same as the underlying zoning, which for an R-3 zone would be a density much higher (one dwelling per 800 square feet) than the current development proposes.
Public Works Director Nic Bateson said he’s been meeting with several members of the Colony South neighborhood since June 2011 to address concerns about development. Love said he’s been informed by Bateson and project engineer Jeff Feck of Vista West Engineering that pertinent concerns will be addressed in the plans.
“I feel we have met the concerns brought up at the meetings between Bateson and a committee of neighborhood representatives,” Love said. “We will not meet the concerns of those who don’t want any development, period.”
Briggs added that Love could have built three-story apartments on both tracts of land by applying for a building permit, but he agreed to the more limited PUD process as a compromise with adjacent property owners. He restricted the development to two-story townhomes in Tract 2 and increased the setback from the adjoining property.
“I would be hesitant to say that the property violates the spirit of compromise,” Briggs said.
Regarding the proposed Skyview West development scheduled to go before the Planning commission Monday, Richer said agreed upon concerns include: traffic, parking, water pressure and open space issues as well as the size of the development and potential impact on property values.
In an email addressing these concerns, Briggs noted:
• Engineering reports included with the PUD demonstrate there is adequate water pressure and volume to meet state and local water system design requirements. The sewer also has proper capacity and the drainage plan preserves historic flows through the property.
• The traffic plan recommends restricting left hand turns out of the project with a physical island and creating a turn lane at the Colonial Drive and Brundage Lane intersection. Traffic data was provided to the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
• As a residential PUD, Skyview West would be required to set aside 20 percent of its total area as open space. The current proposal sets aside 30 percent of the total 6.84 acres.
• Briggs said the size and density of the proposed development is less than what would be allowed under R-3 Residential zoning, which will not be altered by a PUD zone change.