SHERIDAN — Sheridan City Council will consider approval of a subdivision along Fifth Street at its regular meeting next week, a project of little near-term consequence but one that a member of city council said highlights some of the difficulties of addressing local affordable housing needs.
Council is set to consider the Waloga Estates subdivision, a proposal by local developer Thomas Pilch to divide 35.87 acres of unplatted land into six individual lots, each of which would be roughly five acres.
The property is currently zoned urban residential with Sheridan County, which Sheridan Public Works Director Lane Thompson said conforms to the residential zoning regulations the city has applied to nearby lands.
The property technically falls within county limits, but because it is located within one mile of the city of Sheridan’s limits it must be approved by Sheridan city staff and Sheridan City Council.
If the subdivision is approved, it would have virtually no immediate impact on the nearby area — because sewer lines have not yet been extended to the property, Pilch said it could be decades before any construction occurs on the land. But Council President Clint Beaver said the proposed subdivision illustrates some of the challenges local officials face in trying to facilitate the construction of more affordable housing in the Sheridan area.
He pointed out that one of the few tools the city has to encourage affordable housing construction is to promote more lot density in subdivisions, meaning approving subdivisions with smaller lot sizes.
“The land is just darned expensive here and that isn’t going to change,” Beaver said. “The only methods we have that affect the market is increased density.”
The cost of extending sewer structure out to the lot could cost millions of dollars, however, Beaver said.
“The landowner is doing what they can do under the constraints of the county,” Beaver said. “Without sewer they have to go with a large acreage.”
With that in mind, Beaver said he believes the city and the county need to do more to explore ways subdivisions like Waloga can be created with more diverse lot sizes.
“I guess what frustrates me is that while we’ll produce a product like this that says we’re going to urbanize with residential in this location or other locations, we haven’t correspondingly developed plans to make that practical,” Beaver said.
While Pilch said the lots in the division could be divided into smaller parcels in the future, Beaver said he was skeptical that would happen.
“If I had a five-acre parcel, I’d be planning all of my improvements to take up the five acres — I’m not going to chop it up into X number of smaller lots down the road,” Beaver said.
The Sheridan County Planning and Zoning Commission has already recommended approval of the subdivision and, if and when city council approves the proposal, the subdivision would go before the Sheridan County Commissioners for final approval.
There is no simple solution for the issue Beaver highlighted with the Waloga Estates division, but it is among several thorny issues local leaders will have to contend with as they continue to prioritize facilitating affordable housing construction in the community.