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.