The contract to purchase more than 5,500 acres of land from the east edge of Laramie to Medicine Bow National Forest is not ready to be brought to the Albany County Commission. This means the commission has more time to hear public opinions about the purchase and time to decide whether to go through with it.
Warren Livestock Company offered the Albany County Commission the land from the east edge of Laramie east to Medicine Bow National Forest, from the Indian Hills subdivision to Interstate 80, for $14 million.
The commission originally had 30 days after it was proposed for the commission to decide whether to purchase the land and wanted to hear public input about the purchase.
At the Albany County Commission meeting Tuesday, Commission Chairman Tim Chesnut said the contract for the purchase has not been finalized and leaves the county with more room to negotiate on the contract.
“We were informed last week that the contract is not finalized or ready to go, so we have been given more time to think about this process, to get more public comment and feedback,” he said. “I think there is going to be quite a bit of flexibility according to (Commissioner Heber Richardson) telling me they purposefully set it that way as kind of a gauge of what public comment, what our thoughts were on it.”
The commission hosted a public meeting Monday to hear community input of the purchase. At the meeting, some Albany County residents criticized the 50-year hold on the land before it could be opened to development.
Chairman of the Environmental Advisory Committee John Evans says in the contract the county has the land for 50 years, which is not a lot of time when it comes to aquifer protection, and would prefer to have the area unable to be developed for more than 50 years.
“We did pass a motion of support for the project on the grounds that we have always largely supported the buying up land on that side of town to prevent it from being developed and prevent that development from hurting the aquifer,” Evans said.
“Fifty years in the aquifer protection business doesn’t buy you much ... we have a 400-year time horizon we look at for prevention activities.”
Richardson said the development hold is part of the contract because if the seller said it had to remain undeveloped forever, it could drive the buyer away. The 50-year hold is long enough for the area to be established for a recreational and aquifer protection use, which helps the area remain protected after the 50 years.
“If the seller were to essentially by contract, tie it up forever, you know, say, ‘Here’s how you can use it,’ that makes the (buyer) uncomfortable,” Richardson said. “(The sellers) probably figure the chances are, the use will be we established, and people will be used to the way it is, and it probably won’t get used any other way.”
Chesnut said once the contract is finalized, the commission will inform the public about it and make a decision at that time.
“We will let everyone know when the clock starts again when we have to make a decision on this,” he said.