The Laramie City Council will consider on Tuesday whether to pass a regulation requiring Laramie residents and all other entities to use water from the city’s municipal utility when within its borders.
“We’re writing an ordinance that says all municipal water will be under the constitutional right for the community to control,” Mayor Joe Shumway said. “It’s something that’s been done in several other communities, but we’ve never had codified, so we’re going to make sure we’re in control of our water.”
Under the ordinance, using non-municipal water within Laramie would require permission of the city council. The ordinance, according to city staff, is designed to protect Laramie’s water supply from contamination that could come from uncontrolled sources.
Besides fines provided in the general penalty section of city code, the ordinance would allow the city attorney to take legal action to enforce the provisions. The city could also revoke a landowner’s privilege to use a non-municipal well if the landowner changes its legal use or increases its capacity without a permit.
The city butted heads with the University of Wyoming in 2019 over UW’s drilling project in eastern Laramie to irrigate Jacoby Golf Course. A cease-and-desist letter sent to UW administration in August from the city was the culmination of a back-and-forth between the city and university as to whether the drilling was authorized, with the city expressing concern the Casper Aquifer could be contaminated.
During the city council’s annual retreat in January, City Manager Janine Jordan also told council members that as UW drills its own water wells to move Jacoby Golf Course off the city’s water, there will need to be rate increases for other water-users.
UW expects to pay the city $1 million for water over the next five years.
Shumway said UW’s drilling plans could be a part of why the ordinance is being brought forward, but also that water attorneys have advised the city that such a measure is good to have on the books.
Allowing open containers in downtown
Carrying drinks around outside in the downtown area could be commonplace in Laramie this summer if the city council approves a resolution establishing an open container district on Tuesday.
The proposed open container district in downtown would be located between First and Fourth streets to the west and east and between Ivinson Avenue and Kearney Street to the north and south. It excludes the block containing St. Matthew’s Cathedral between Third and Fourth streets on Ivinson.
“It would allow businesses that can legally sell for off-site consumption to sell to people while walking around downtown or to do some shopping, moving location to location,” Feezer said. “Both Cheyenne and Casper are effectively putting the same kind of resolution together. The intent is to create more business and foot traffic in downtown.”
If approved Tuesday, the open container district would operate from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays starting Wednesday and ending Sept. 7.
Freezer said he doesn’t expect creating the open container district would draw so many people it would become a risk for spreading COVID-19.
“In our minds, we’re not creating an event where hundreds of people show up,” Feezer said. “We want to provide people the opportunity to enjoy and drink and get a little more shopping in.”
Downtown zoning regulations
The city of Laramie’s Planning Commission in June advanced a proposal to amend the city’s regulations for buildings within the downtown district, which includes 25 city blocks, with a mix of stricter and looser measures. Now city council members will take on the proposed changes for a first reading during Tuesday’s meeting.
If the new design amendments are passed, existing buildings would only need to be renovated to conform to the new rules when there’s a significant enough change of use that would require, under the city’s site planning regulations, having a building brought up to code.
Shumway said it’s always a tough line to walk in trying to foster a regulatory environment that helps downtown thrive and implementing unnecessary regulations that make it difficult for businesses to succeed.
“Hopefully everything we do is pro-business,” Shumway said. “We’ll be very careful in considering all their needs and abilities to stay in business. We try to find something that helps all businesses.”
The updated standards would not allow any storefront to utilize stucco, natural-finished wood, synthetic stone or metal siding. A non-storefront facade that faces another right-of-way would be allowed to have stucco or synthetic stone occupy up to 20% of the facade. A building would also be required to take up 80% of the square footage of the lot it occupies. A patio could constitute 20% of the required footprint.
The changes would also greatly increase the amount of transparent windows that must be present on buildings’ facades, increasing the ratio from 10 % to 70% of a street-facing facade to be composed from transparent materials, and the lowest edge of transparency can be no more than two feet off the ground. Floors above the ground floor would need to be 50% percent transparent, with a minimum of four-foot tall windows. However, buildings could be exempted from the window requirement by applying for a waiver on the grounds that the building is historical or culturally significant.
The code changes would also ban the use of temporary signs and banners, except signs advertising — for a brief period — special events. While it would be a requirement applying only to new buildings, the proposed changes include a minimum height for buildings of 30 feet.
On measures that would loosen regulations, the proposed revisions would allow for downtown buildings to be taller than currently allowed while setting a two-story minimum height. Currently, proposed new buildings can be no taller than the tallest existing structure on that block. The proposed changes would set a maximum height of 80 feet — one story taller than the Wagner building.
The proposed regulations would also allow for signs that protrude from a storefront to be larger than the current regulations. The current rule states that projecting signs can only go a third of the way from a building to the curb and should not exceed 15 square feet. The proposed changes would allow projecting signs to protrude halfway to the curb, with a size limit of 30 square feet.
The proposed change also would remove a rule in code that allows a building downtown to be no larger than 65,000 square feet.
Spring Creek Village subdivision
City staff will recommend to council members remanding the Spring Creek Village subdivision final plat first filing back to the Planning Commission as it does not now comply with conditions of approval previously set forth.
“Council provided conditions on the preliminary plat, then this first filing of the final plat doesn’t meet those conditions in staff’s view,” said Todd Feezer, assistant city manager. “We believe by law the final plat has to match the conditions placed on it.”
The Planning Commission earlier this year narrowly voted to recommend approval of the final plat without infrastructure improvements as stipulated by the council.