Nearly a year after approving a purchase option for a portion of land in the Turner Tract, the Laramie City Council voted Tuesday not to approve a purchase option extension.
During the council’s regular session, the council reviewed an amendment to a purchase option that would allow Cornerstone Associates three more months to complete the purchase of land located on Boulder Drive between Laramie High School and the Laramie Community Recreation Center for the purpose of building an independent living facility for people 62 or older.
The amendment was requested because Cornerstone’s funding application is currently under review by the Wyoming Community Development Authority with a decision expected in January.
“I very much support the housing in this community,” Mayor Andi Summerville said. “I never want us to be Jackson, and Laramie is already headed down a track of having very expensive housing. I don’t ever want it to be that people can’t afford to live here.”
On the other hand, Summerville said data collected earlier this year indicated the original site of the proposed living facility would need to be moved to facilitate a drainage area for the Turner Tract’s growing drainage needs. Where previously, Cornerstone was slated to build on a portion of the agreed upon land, which would not conflict with expansion plans for the recreation center, the new location would limit options for the recreation center’s future expansion, city documents state.
“I think it’s important to balance what the community expects,” Summerville said. “I would urge the council to tell them no now, with a commitment of doing what is needed to get them across the street.”
Cornerstone President Bobbi Jo Lucas said the company originally started working with the city in 2013 with the intention of purchasing the lot across Boulder Drive from the current proposed development lot; however, the rezoning and conditional use process failed to proceed.
“There were too many guidelines on that side that we were told were not able to be waved,” Lucas said.
In 2016, Lucas presented the council with a plan to develop a 48-unit senior living facility on about 4 acres. On Dec. 20, the council approved the purchase option 5-2, with Councilor Dave Paulekas and former Councilor Joe Vitale voting against and Mayor Andi Summerville and former Councilor Vicki Henry absent.
While some councilors said the drainage data and Cornerstone failing to secure funding during the approved timeline meant the deal should be reconsidered, others said they felt the council should honor the formerly approved purchase option regardless.
“I would love to say we are going to double the size of the Ice & Events Center or the rec center, but how soon is that going to happen,” Councilor Bryan Shuster said. “I am for this. I realize it does not fit perfectly in the plans, but when Laramie County Community College came in the plan changed, and when the high school came in the plan changed.”
Councilor Pat Gabriel said he was also in favor of keeping the purchase option open and extending it.
“It makes it very difficult, because we have new information, which is the drainage,” Vice Mayor Jayne Pearce said. “And that’s no one’s fault.”
Councilor Phoebe Stoner said she agreed Laramie needed more housing options, but based on the data Lucas presented, she wasn’t sure Cornerstone’s proposed development would benefit the people who needed low-income housing options the most.
“When we moved here in 1984, there was no rec center,” Laramie resident Judy Snoke said. “I really see that area as very important to our community. It took 20 years from the first time I was here (at a council meeting) to get a rec center, so (expansion is) not something that’s going to happen in the next few years.”
The council defeated the amendment 5-4, with Summerville, Pearce, Stoner, Paulekas and Councilor Charles McKinney voting against.
“I don’t think the conversation is done,” Summerville told Lucas after the vote.