wes kleven

Wes Kleven discusses his hope to have a second residence on his Woods Landing property during an Albany County Commission meeting.

Nearly all private property at Woods Landing is zoned for “rural lot residential” or agricultural use, and Albany County commissioners declined this month to approve a rezone that would create two “small lot residential” lots in an area.

Wes and Cara Kleven, who own an 8.9-acre parcel at Woods Landing, had sought to add a “stick-built house” next to the existing mobile home on the property in hopes of sharing the land with Cara Kleven’s parents.

However, “rural lot residential” properties require at least five acres per home. If the Klevens’ property was larger than 10 acres, they would’ve only needed a conditional use permit to add a second home.

Instead, Albany County’s planning staff said the Klevens’ only option is to have the property rezoned and subdivided.

“Perhaps we need to look at changes to the (regulations) to allow for a second dwelling, but as it stands, this is their only option,” assistant planner Chris Van Aken said at last week’s county commission meeting.

There is other developed property in Woods Landing with fewer than five acres, but those lots were grandfathered in when the area was zoned as small lot residential.

While county planner David Gertsch recommended the Klevens’ zoning change be approved, the planning commission voted 3-2 against the proposal, though some of the concerns weren’t about the density.

“(Commission member) John Spiegelberg expressed that he did not want to see mobile homes go up on the Klevens’ property and worried that this land-use change would permit that,” Van Aken told commissioners.

Mobile homes are allowed on both rural lot residential and small lot residential properties, but Woods Landing subdivisions once had covenants barring them. Those covenants have since expired.

While commissioners Pete Gosar and Heber Richardson expressed sympathy for the Klevens, the county board opted to decline the proposal last Tuesday.

“The comprehensive plan has been put together for thousands of dollars and hours of people’s work, and I think there needs to be a compelling reasons to have changes to that comprehensive plan,” Gosar said. “The folks who bought land out there bought it with that understanding. I wish the covenants had not expired.”

Laramie attorney Mitch Edwards, who represents a ranch across the street from the Klevens, told commissioners the rezone proposal is “the definition of spot zoning.”

“The next person who comes in, this commission would not be able to deny a rezone to small lot residential because now you’ve changed the character of the neighborhood,” he argued.

Seven neighbors of the Klevens argued against allowing the rezone at the commission meeting.

“We understand the argument that a person ought to have the right to do whatever they want on their own property, and we agree to that up to a point, but there’s a point at which it begins to have negative impacts on the neighbors,” said Peter Ellsworth, who’s lived in the Mountain Meadow Acres subdivision with his wife for 42 years.

“I specifically chose that community because of the spacing of the homes, because of that rural feeling,” said Woods Landing resident Shawn Sommerfield. “I don’t like people really close to me. It makes me tense.”

Several of the Klevens’ neighbors argued that the rezone would affect other property values. They also expressed concern that the rezone would create a precedent that would ultimately change “the feel of the community.”

And others expressed the same concern as Spiegelberg, stating they didn’t like that the Klevens have a mobile home on their property.

“I truly understand the need for affordable housing. I lived in several trailer houses when I was a young man, but they darn sure weren’t next door to high-end houses,” said Kenny Clark, who lives on Fox Creek Road.

Wes Kleven argued that the criticisms of his family weren’t fair.

“We’ve had a lot of people attack us because they think we’re trying to take away what they have, when in reality, all we want is to have what they have,” Wes Kleven said. “This is been a dream of ours for a long time — to move out into the country and have a little bit of space. … I get (why people don’t like mobile homes). Some people don’t want to look at them, but that’s what some people can afford. It shouldn’t negate their right to the pursuit of happiness just because that’s what they can afford.”

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