The Laramie City Council narrowly voted to change elements of its landscaping code for developments in the city during a regular meeting Tuesday.
The main motion passed with Councilors Andi Summerville, Vicki Henry and Vice Mayor Jayne Pearce voting “no,” but there were several amendments.
Following meetings with the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance’s subcommittee, the Community Development Liaison Committee — a board representing developers — city staff recommended changes to Laramie’s landscaping code that would reduce overall requirements.
The changes as recommended were approved by the Laramie Planning Commission, but ran into opposition from city councilors who contended the scaling back of landscaping requirements went too far.
Though the proposal made its way through the first two readings at council, Summerville — who was generally opposed to the reductions — made a motion to postpone the ordinance’s passage until the Laramie Beautification Committee, Parks, Trees and Recreation Advisory Board and the city’s arborist could provide input.
Principal Planner Charles Bloom said he’d prepared amendments for councilors to introduce at their discretion that would include a point system for public art elements to be substituted for some living landscaping requirements, as well as one to remove a section of the proposed amendments that allowed for a sliding scale for larger developments.
The first amendment included changes recommended by the city’s arborist, the proposal regarding public art and increases in certain point values that determine whether a site has met the requirements for landscaping.
The amendment passed 7-1 with Councilor Bryan Shuster voting “no.” Shuster generally maintained his support of the staff recommendations as initially proposed throughout the weeks of public discussion.
Henry then made a motion to delete the proposed sliding scale for larger developments. Summerville said the topic was “hotly contested” by members of the Laramie Beautification Committee, and that she also supported its deletion.
“If I had to draw up one point there were really against, it was the sliding scale,” Summerville said. “The discussion centered around the idea that when these larger developments come in, they impact the community greatly, and when there’s not enough landscaping it becomes a problem that falls back to the community to pick up the slack and money.”
Laramie Chamber Business Alliance President J.J. Harris said the subcommittee and Laramie Chamber Business Alliance supported the measure to give options to planners and developers.
“Every site is specific, and I would say let flexibility lay with developers and planners,” he said.
Summerville said she was also opposed because city staff already had the option of applying a 20-percent reduction to landscaping if a site met certain criteria, and a developer could ask for a reduction on top of a reduction.
The amendment failed with Henry, Summerville and Pearce voting “no.”
Even with the sliding scale in place in the main motion, Summerville proposed the possibility of creating a provision that would not allow developers to request the administrative 20 percent reduction on top of the sliding scale for larger developments — something City Manager Janine Jordan said could be called a “double coupon scenario.” Though Bloom said a developer would be hard-pressed to stack the percentages to achieve a double coupon scenario, the council pursued the motion that Shuster said he would support.
The motion to not allow developers to request an additional 20 percent in requirements in addition to the reductions allowed in the sliding scale passed unanimously.
Finally, Summerville made another motion to amend the main motion to delete staff’s recommendation to reduce the overall percentage of a lot that required landscaping from 20 percent to 15 percent.
“With all the other changes we’ve made … you’re going to get less landscaping anyway,” she said. “There was a strong feeling (the Laramie Beautification Committee) didn’t want to reduce and go backward to where Laramie was at.”
Harris spoke once more opposed to the final amendment.
“If we start going back up, we’re putting more regulations that are burdensome on the cost of development,” he said.
The amendment failed, with Summerville, Henry and Pearce voting “yes.”