Several members of the Laramie City Council expressed the need to update some of the city’s permitted and conditionally-permitted uses for certain zoning districts so only the right kind of slaughterhouse will be permitted within city limits.
During its work session Tuesday, the Laramie City Council reviewed the city’s conditional use permit application process, as well as received a complete list of potential permitted and conditional uses for a variety of development types. The Council decided to review potentially change or update any uses no longer deemed appropriate for respective zoning districts – especially slaughterhouses.
During his presentation about the conditional use permit process, Planning Manager Derek Teini explained to that the Planning Committee reviews and approves or denies all conditional permit requests; the Council has not been involved in the process since 2010 when the ordinance requiring Council approval was changed.
“Because Council does not approve a conditional use permit, Planning Commission technically could have approved a slaughterhouse,” said councilwoman Jayne Pearce. “Not that Planning Commission would have wanted a slaughterhouse, but it could have occurred without us casting a vote.”
Although most of the council members expressed a desire to see the slaughterhouse completely off the permitted use list, Teini said the uses are on the chart for a reason.
“I’m going to let council know though, I’ve had discussions about slaughterhouses within the city of Laramie under the conditional use process,” Teini said. “In the scenario I’m talking about, it’s actually a really good location — not the location you’re concerned about, I’ll clear that up today.”
Some members shared concerns a slaughterhouse would be a permitted use in an area by 15th Street and the future Bill Nye Avenue when Council voted in November to up-zone a lot to a general commercial zone. With the zoning change, a slaughterhouse would be permitted on the lot if it were under 4,000 square feet, with a larger one needing a conditional use permit.
Teini noted the Planning Department and Planning Commission look at a variety of criteria when judging conditional use permits, including appropriate location and intensity of use compared to the surrounding zones.
“I think that you always have to trust criteria and the members that you put on Planning Commission to properly evaluate this,” Teini said. “A large processing plant versus maybe a 1,000-square-feet specialty meat slicer — it might be a really good location in that exact same place that you said the user could not go. That’s the purpose of that criteria, is there are times that we think it’s appropriate and times that it’s not.”
Councilman Paul Weaver said the City Council should compile a list of potential uses to change or remove that the Council “knows for sure” would be too controversial or a “bad fit,” just to eliminate the risk of an unwanted use being permitted by a technicality. Teini said cities change and clarify potential uses “all the time” to ensure more control over permitted uses; Laramie has updated the unified development code about 37 times since it was adopted in 2010, he added.
Teini reminded the Council the conditional use permit process is a helpful thing for both the city and developers.
“I’m allowed to be a professional planner here and make professional decisions based upon the site,” Teini said. “It’s also a very progressive, business-friendly process to allow for a little bit more flexibility in the zoning code. … I don’t know of a community that doesn’t have a conditional use process or what they call special use process.”
Weaver said he would prefer companies to go through the conditional use permit process in lieu of going before council to “spot zone” or rezone an area. Companies would much rather go through the conditional use permit process as well, Teini said, because it’s quicker than going to Council to rezone.
Mayor Joe Shumway said the City Council will work on a list of uses in need of updating to consider for a future meeting, since any changes to the Unified Development Code will require three readings from City Council.