The Albany County Planning and Zoning Commission approved a preliminary application for a new subdivision to be located east of the Imperial Heights neighborhood during a meeting Tuesday afternoon.
The proposed Rocky Ridge subdivision would consist of seven lots on a 35-acre parcel for single-family residential use. The parcel sits to the northeast of Imperial Heights and just south of the section of undeveloped state land that’s home to the Schoolyard trail system. It would tentatively connect to city streets via Quarterhorse Drive.
The parcel is currently zoned for rural residential use, which permits dwellings on five-acre lots. It also sits within the Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone and is crossed by a known fault and an ephemeral drainage, both of which are features considered capable of transporting contaminants into the Casper Aquifer. Development within the subdivision would necessitate individual wells and on-site septic systems.
In a letter dated Sept. 14, assistant city manager Todd Feezer requested that the commission deny the application because it sits upgradient from a city wellhead and is inconsistent with low-density development recommended in the Casper Aquifer Protection Plan, which names septic systems as a potential mode of contamination.
“Giving consideration to the fact that this subdivision will allow seven wastewater systems, while the county’s Comprehensive Plan recommends only one, this subdivision proposal would far exceed the number of potential source contamination points considered reasonable for purposes of protection of the aquifer,” Feezer writes.
Feezer requested that that county require a third-party review of the application’s site-specific investigation in his letter, as did city planning manager Derek Teini during Tuesday’s meeting.
“Albany County is also in service to the city of Laramie in terms of protection of its water sources directly upgradient from city well fields,” Teini said. “Looking at this subdivision and ensuring it does not create any potential contamination issues is definitely a concern.”
Max Couthard, who owns the property and submitted the subdivision application, said he’s taken every precaution in his proposal, including hiring a geologist to analyze the soil on the property. A report from Weston Engineering maps vulnerable features as well as 100-foot setbacks, as required within the Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone.
“We have crossed all our T’s and dotted all our I’s to make sure it’s within the parameter of all the rules which have been put in place to protect the water,” he said. “We spent a lot of time and a lot of money to make sure it’s doable. If there was some risk I wouldn’t have even brought it to the table. In short, we believe it’s very safe — above and beyond safe.”
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality also reviewed the application, because the Water Quality Division monitors surface and groundwater in the state. The DEQ issued a “non-adverse” recommendation for the subdivision’s proposed septic systems and wells, meaning it considers them adequate.
Commission member Keith Kennedy said maps showing vulnerable features and setbacks seemed clear.
“I am comfortable with that, as long as it’s noted on the plat,” he said.
Commission member John Spiegelberg said the amount of exposed rock on the property was a concern.
“I’m hoping that whoever builds up there will address that rock problem and try to minimize the pollution probability by using these more sophisticated septic tanks,” he said.
The city also disagreed with the application asserting the subdivision could use Quarterhorse Drive as its access point. Feezer said there’s no existing agreement for access and a traffic study might be required, perhaps along with other conditions, before permission would be granted.
Attorney Mitch Edwards, who was hired by Couthard to consider the issue of access, said Quarterhorse Drive is already dedicated and open to public use and is sufficiently wide enough to meet subdivision regulations.
Spiegelberg, Kennedy and Chairman Shaun Moore approved the preliminary application. Carl Miller was absent and David Cunningham recently resigned from the planning commission. The Board of Commissioners will make the final decision about the subdivision during a future meeting.