After months of discussion and delays, Laramie’s developers could soon have guidance about whether or not power lines must be buried in new subdivisions.
During the Laramie City Council regular meeting Tuesday, the council approved a heavily amended ordinance, which changed several aspects of the Laramie Municipal Code.
One of the most debated changes in Ordinance No. 1978 would have exempted future developers from burying existing, mounted primary electrical distribution lines greater than 600 volts, two of which run along Laramie’s northern limits and across the Cirrus Sky Technology Park. Developers would also not need to bury television and internet cables attached or adjacent to the primary electrical distribution line poles.
While Laramie Planning Division Principal Planner Charles Bloom said the wording of the exemption was crafted in conjunction with representatives of Black Hills Energy, Vice Mayor Jayne Pearce said the exemptions were too broad.
“I’m asking for the deletion of the exemption (for primary electrical distribution lines),” Pearce said, clarifying a proposed amendment to the ordinance, which Councilor Phoebe Stoner seconded.
Coffey Engineering & Surveying CEO Dave Coffey said the amendment was a bad idea during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“Representing the developer community, eliminating this is very costly and it will assuredly cost development occurring in Laramie,” Coffey said. “It’s not a business friendly move, and it will discourage development in certain places in town.”
Laramie Chamber Business Alliance CEO and President JJ Harris also spoke against the amendment.
“A big concern with this is Cirrus Sky (Technology Park),” Harris said. “It’s a very, very expensive proposition to bury these lines. I caution that removing this language would be another barrier to Cirrus Sky development.”
Harris estimated the amendment could cost Cirrus Sky about $800,000.
The amendment was defeated 8-1, with Mayor Andi Summerville and Councilors Charles McKinney, Pat Gabriel, Dave Paulekas, Bryan Shuster, Klaus Hanson, Joe Shumway and Stoner voting against.
Later in the meeting, Pearce introduced another amendment removing the exemption, but this time, only for residential developers. Gabriel seconded the amendment.
“I think it’s wild we’re going to give a business a break, but not the public,” Shuster said.
Paulekas said he was not opposed to burying the power lines, he did not think it was necessary in Laramie.
“I don’t see it as a big deal,” he said. “It’s not like they are a huge eyesore. It’s better to have them underground, but it’s not something we need to solve in our community.”
Summerville said leaving the ordinance as written would mean developers could leave all power lines above ground, since all power lines were at some point attached to the primary electrical distribution line.
“Council has been dealing with this issue for about two or three years,” Summerville said. “I think this is a good compromise. I think burying residential (power lines) is much cheaper than commercial. And, I think it addresses the concerns.”
The amendment was approved 5-4, with Paulekas, Hanson, Shumway and Shuster voting against.
A section requiring multi-family home developers to pave alleyways on new projects was struck from the ordinance by a unanimous council vote.
The council approved the ordinance as amended 8-1, with Pearce voting against.