The Saratoga Sun -

Thumbs up for townhomes

own planners set agenda moving forward, send townhouse recommendation to council


The Saratoga Planning Commission will have a full plate for some time to come. In an Aug. 9 meeting attended by about 10 individuals, the commission voted in favor of a rezone request put in by Trivest Enterprises and devoted the remainder of their two-hour meeting to laying out goals for the year ahead. Commission chair Rory Grubb and commission member Chris Duke were absent from the proceedings.

The three to one Trivest decision came in the wake of a 20 minute discussion about the developer’s plans.

Trivest wants to build townhouses on approximately 4.2 acres of land on the southern boundary of Saratoga. The lots are currently zoned RD 7200, a designation that does not allow townhouses.

At a July 12 planning commission meeting, commission chair Grubb recused himself to represent Trivest and ask that the parcel be rezoned to RD 9000 so Trivest could build the townhouses. That initial application was denied after Tim Lamprecht, the owner of nearby Valley Foods, raised the specter of trailer homes being constructed on the property in the future. Though Grubb offered assurances that he had no intentions of building trailer homes, Trivest’s RD 9000 application was voted down.

August 9, it was Everett Grubb, Rory’s father, representing Trivest at the planning commission. This round, the developer requested a zone change to RD 9002 which would not allow for trailer homes, but once again the zone-change faced opposition from Lamprecht.

Lamprecht raised questions about the capacity of the sewer line in the proposed development, and whether they could service the townhomes. Lamprecht also said he was concerned that the RD 9002 designation would amount to spot-zoning in the area and lead to unforeseen future consequences.

Carbon County Planning Director Sid Fox, attending the meeting as a guest, interjected, “Looking at your zoning map, I don’t think it’s spot-zoning.” Fox said because both RD 7200 and RD 9002 are similar types of residential housing designations, having them in the same area probably wasn’t a serious concern. As to sewer line issue, Fox said “I think it’s an important discussion but it’s not necessarily part of zoning.”

Commission member and acting chair Karl Smith also appeared to think the sewer question was best left for another day–or a different board. “I can see the intent of the developer here,” Smith said of Trivest’s plan to tap in some lots to the sewer system before others. Ultimately, the planners voted three to one to recommend the town council approve the new RD 9002 designation, with council member Jim Beckmann voting nay because of concerns over the sewer situation.

The rest of the meeting featured few actionable items, but lots of homework for the planners. Fox, the county planner, informed the commission for a second time that recent statutory changes resulted in some jurisdiction changes to the control of Wyoming towns’ “buffer zones.”

Buffer zones, or influence areas, are lands on a town’s periphery that fall outside of town limits. In the past, the Town of Saratoga had enforced its municipal zoning codes within a one mile “influence area” outside of town limits.

Fox said that statutory changes had given the county ultimate jurisdiction over these areas, but that Saratoga may be able to retain some planning control with County permission. The town plan states that “The Town and the County should have a single vision for future development in the area surrounding the Town.” This will necessitate an update of current arrangements, with the Town and County working together to figure out who will regulate what. Though he stressed he’s not a lawyer, Fox said Saratoga and Carbon County would likely “have to enter into an M.O.U–Memorandum Of Understanding–or I.G.A.–Intergovernmental Agreement.”

Commission members Will Faust and Beckmann agreed to form a working group with Fox and Saratoga Zoning Officer Kent Smith to come up with a proposal to bring back to the commission. A key question the group will study is where the boundary lines of this influence area will fall. Ultimately, the full planning commission will bring a proposal to present to the town council and then the council will approach the board of county commissioners.

Another area the commission said it would look into is reworking the planned unit-development (PUD) process, where developers and town planners work closely on the design of a development. Karl Smith agreed to write up a revised version of chapter 18.51 for discussion at the next meeting. Chapter 18.51 sets the framework for the PUD process

Replacing recently resigned board member Thomas Knickerbocker is also in the works. According to the commission’s bylaws, an unscheduled vacancy must be advertised for at least two weeks, then the mayor appoints a replacement with town council approval. Given the time frames of the meetings, the first time this appointment could be made would be at the Sept. 6 Saratoga Town Council Meeting.

Commission member and council member Will Faust said “There has been discussion at a town council level of having some enforcement representation (on the planning commission).” In addition to being on the planning commission, Knickerbocker was also Chief of Police for Saratoga.

The next planning commission meeting will be held 5:30 p.m., Sept. 13 at Saratoga Town Hall.


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