WEB ONLY downtown file photo

A double rainbow forms over downtown Laramie. 

Proposed changes to Laramie’s development code for the downtown district that have caused concern for some property- and business-owners will be the subject of a City Council work session on Tuesday.

City planners argue the changes will encourage development within downtown and put less restrictive practices on developers, while also “ensuring a more vibrant downtown by ensuring higher quality design and use of land,” according to a staff report. The amendments and updates, staff write, have been gathered through efforts of city staff and Laramie Main Street throughout the past few years.

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.

But during a public hearing at council’s July 21 meeting, several people told council members there are a number of items in the proposed ordinance they think would be detrimental to future development and others that don’t serve the interest of making downtown an attractive area.

Chelsea and Rob Harder, who own NU2U and NU2U Sports, both in Laramie’s downtown district, sent a letter to the council outlining some of their concerns. While the Harders argued many of the proposed changes would be suitable for the heart of the downtown commercial district, they said the new requirements would apply to a much larger area with properties not suited to comply should they pursue development projects.

In their own situation, the Harders wrote they are planning on development projects as they battle sinkholes on their property. The new regulations, they wrote, would put the project to save their building and improve their property out of reach.

Rob Harder suggested council-members consider a compromise, such as making the new code apply to a specific part of the downtown commercial district.

“We’re going to set yourselves up where we’ll pigeonhole development and nothing is going to happen, I’m afraid,” Rob Harder said during the public hearing. “There’s a lot of good here and I commit myself to helping find a solution, but I don’t think this, as is, is good for Laramie. I think it’s going to make downtown business owners struggle.”

Another property and business owner, Brett Glass, suggested the ordinance contained so many flaws — in one example, its prohibition of stucco on downtown buildings — that it needed to be voted down and sent back to the Planning Commission.

While the council was set to vote on the ordinance during the July 21 meeting, Councilman Bryan Shuster made a motion to postpone the next vote until the Aug. 4 meeting with a work session scheduled for Tuesday.

“There are a lot of questions downtown owners have,” Shuster said. “This way people who have properties or have questions can ask them at that session.”

City Manager Janine Jordan said staff welcomed the opportunity to have the work session.

“We are aware there’s a lot of incorrect information circulating in the community, so we think this work session will be a great opportunity to put the facts on the table,” Jordan said.

(14) comments

Brett Glass

The proposed UDC and zoning changes would impact more than 3/4 of downtown buildings, and make many of them worthless (because sale to, or occupancy by, a new business would trigger Draconian demands from the City that would cost more to implement than the buildings were worth). Why even consider such a thing? Firstly, because an unelected bureaucrat at City Hall - an assistant city planner - personally does not like certain aspects of downtown buildings and wants to outlaw them. (He has a particular grudge, for some reason, against the beautiful new optometry clinic on 2nd Street, every aspect of which he tried to make illegal via these changes.) His summary of the changes, which was handed to City Council in its agenda packet, falsely claimed - for example - that stucco, a material which was produced in Laramie throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, was "non-historic." Yet, the same proposal allows the construction of skyscrapers 8 stories tall in downtown - something which IS clearly non-historic. Secondly, the "Laramie Main Street Alliance," which claims to represent downtown businesses but is actually representing a group of builders who want to profit from replacing downtown buildings, seems to have the ear of those bureaucrats. The changes to allow high rises are a special favor to an unnamed developer (they won't say who) who apparently came to the City and asked to scrape off downtown lots to build these huge buildings, which WOULD be incongruous and ugly, would block the sun, and would cut off wireless Internet service to residents and businesses by blocking radio links. The changes would also eliminate parking requirements for new construction and strongly discourage - or in some cases outlaw - the creation of adequate parking when new buildings were built. But they'd make big buildings cheaper and more profitable, at the expense of worsening downtown's existing parking crisis. Finally, because we have a City Council that is overwhelmed, burnt out, and constantly manipulated and misled by the city's own bureaucrats. Council - which is supposed to supervise City staff, not be ruled BY it - should simply reject, out of hand, any proposal that contains obvious lies, as this one does, and insist that staff be disciplined or fired when it lies to them. But it doesn't. Instead, the public must make great efforts to expose the lies, and even then Council often rubber stamps the bureaucrats' whims. This is not right. Especially in these trying times, we need our city to be a democracy, not a bureaucracy. This is why we all must speak out about this and similar matters, and why I have volunteered to sit on City Council to represent Ward 1 beginning next January.

Ernest Bass

Thank you, Mr. Glass, for your thoughtful and well researched posts. You will get my vote. How about this quote from Janine: “We are aware there’s a lot of incorrect information circulating in the community…”? Janine thinks the citizens of Laramie are too stupid to understand what is being proposed by the city planning stooges. Perhaps, Janine, the citizens of Laramie understand full well what is being proposed and we do not agree with this idiocy.

Brett Glass

It appears that the City Manager has not researched the issue, and/or is merely standing up for the staff member whom she hired - rather than disciplining him for lying to the Planning Commission and Council. (The City Manager hires all city employees except for the few that Council chooses, including her.) This is one of the most serious flaws of a "Council and City Manager" form of municipal government. The CEO of the city isn't directly accountable to the public, and is motivated to pursue the interests of the bureaucrats rather than those of the people. This is one of the reasons why I advocate that any city with a population of more than 25,000 - a number that Laramie passed some time ago - have an elected mayor. Fortunately, downtown business owners, property owners, and residents know the truth: this is not an attempt to preserve our historic downtown but to force it to be "made over" - in a way that serves the interests of builders, developers, and bureaucrats who wish to micromanage and exert arbitrary power. They won't let their properties be made worthless - or have downtown ruined by towering, ugly, incongruous high rises - so easily.

TheReplacement

So BG, un-elected planning bureaucrats are bad but un-elected medical bureaucrats are worshiped and to be obeyed no matter what. I get it now.

Brett Glass

Doctors and researchers are not "medical bureaucrats." Our elected leaders have a duty to protect public health, and 2/3 of US Governors have already done so by heeding scientists' and doctors' sage advice and mandating masks. It's time for Wyoming to ignore the ignorant antimaskers (who are no brighter than antivaxxers) do the same.

TheReplacement

Glad you finally learned that distinction. It's the medical bureaucrats that have the elected leaders ears though. The doctors and researchers have explicitly written that masks are both worthless and harmful to the wearer. Either show your science or admit your own hypocrisy.

Brett Glass

You clearly watch too much Hoax News. The research very strongly supports masking: https://www.npr.org/2020/07/20/893227088/growing-body-of-evidence-suggests-masks-protect-those-wearing-them-too https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/07/23/894425483/can-masks-save-us-from-more-lockdowns-heres-what-the-science-says

TheReplacement

@bg, Well, I gave you yet another chance to provide the science and you again can only point to a media/propaganda outlet of the Rockefeller Foundation. I can see why you're so easily misled.

Brett Glass

I don’t need an anonymous Web troll to “ give me a chance.” NPR is the best and fairest news source in Wyoming, and there are plenty of other trustworthy sources which confirm the science.

TheReplacement

Science comes from studies published in peer reviewed science and medical journals, not from a propaganda outlet's anonymous sources. You're dense beyond belief.

Brett Glass

Says the anonymous source. ;-)

HarleyRider

The downtown of Laramie possesses the charm of a small western town. I went to High School and lived in this wonderful town for many years... many ears ago. When I traveled through recently, I was heartbroken when I saw our perfectly good old Laramie High torn down and some hideous behemoth monument to left-slated big government indoctrination schooling built to replace it. That was a destructive and negative change. Take a perfectly good school centrally located and replace it with somebody's boondoggle contract. The new rules for downtown development seem to be in the same vein... destroy the old-school charm of this wonderful small town and replace it with agenda-driven high occupation and density building. Ridiculous, harmful, and destructive. Look folks, you either cherish what you have or you lose it. The small town charm of Laramie is worth preserving.

Brett Glass

I mostly agree. It's not a "left vs. right" issue (bureaucrats are bureaucrats and seek tp expand their empires regardless of party affiliation), but the proposed changes are indeed destructive and harmful. No matter what his or her politics, anyone who loves Laramie should oppose them.

Ernest Bass

Speaking of empire building, the city has budgeted $20,820,954 (from Adopted Budget Fiscal Year 2021, p. 80) for Janine’s new Municipal Operations Center north of town. The spending will dwarf even the extravagant $4.5 million fire station in West Laramie.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.