SHERIDAN — When the Wrench Ranch went on the market earlier this year, the future of Sheridan County did as well, as the city is poised to grow on its north side.
“One thing I’ve learned in real estate is location, location, location,” said Charlie Powers, owner and broker of Powers Land Brokerage, LLC, which is handling the sale. “When you study the perimeter of town, the North Gateway District is the practical direction for expansion for both commercial and residential planned development. With direct access to I-90 and a blank canvas of buildable land and utility infrastructure, it is ideal for new businesses such as Weatherby, Kennon, EMIT and Vacutech. All you have to do is see the incredible upsurge of business that Common Cents has experienced to understand what this location creates.”
The ranch — which includes approximately 492 annexed developable acres, 4,487 acres in agricultural land and a grazing lease on 3,190 acres of state land — could shape the future of Sheridan’s growth.
The city’s community development director, Brian Craig, said part of the reason the city is growing faster on the north side than other directions is the willingness for development. Utilities and platting have already been started, allowing for rapid implementation of plans.
The fact that the city also has a master plan for the area, Craig said, guides development and gives buyers confidence.
The North Main Area Master Plan, completed in 2009, aimed to provide a coordinated concept for the area.
State Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, was mayor at the time the plan was completed. Kinskey said the plan called for “open space, a high-tech park, a gateway, recreation amenities and very specific design criteria for new construction and industry.”
In addition to the North Main Area Master Plan, a plan also exists for the Wrench Ranch itself. Phase two of the Wrench Ranch Master Plan went on the books in 2015.
Craig noted that mixed use plans that include things like high-tech manufacturing, education and residential development are the types of developments that tend to succeed due to the compatibility and support they offer each other.
“No longer is the norm to have uses be distinct and separated by long distance,” Craig said. “The fact that the Wrench Ranch Master Plan has the foresight to encourage mixed uses that bring rooftops to industry and retail areas is also a reason for the attractiveness of the north end.”
The current owners of the Wrench Ranch — Butch Jellis and Neltje — have already made decisions to help the area grow. They have donated land to Sheridan College for its AgriPark and donated land for the creation of Doubleday Park, which will eventually include soccer fields, baseball and softball fields and other recreation opportunities.
With those steps in mind, Powers said the hope is that the new owner of the Wrench Ranch will participate in development and ownership of scalable business ventures.
“Naturally, the new owner will continue the cooperative spirit of advancing not only their own interests but the interest of their neighbors,” Powers said.
Craig noted that the community is in need of attainable workforce housing and the Wrench Ranch area has the potential to provide some of that inventory.
While the area is poised to have a big impact on Sheridan’s future, officials did note types of growth on the north side of Sheridan that they hope can be avoided.
Kinskey said he hopes the community will avoid “uncontrolled, boom and bust, runaway growth.”
“That will rob us of the wonderful character of our community and our cherished quality of life,” Kinskey added.
Craig said it will be important to avoid heavy industrial uses but added that desirable uses also need to be designed and situated in compatible ways.
“Connecting road networks and parking areas in a logical manner will be important,” he said. “Making the area feel like a cohesive district with common architectural themes and building sizing and placement is the vision for the Wrench Ranch. If we allow corporate or even small entities to dictate their standard template dropped on a lot without regard for its place in the overall master planned area, that would detract from the great potential of the north end.”
In terms of what they hope to see, though, officials remained on the same page — the vision for the north side of Sheridan includes mixed use development, with housing, light industry and commercial properties all working together to restore vibrancy to the area.