Albany County Commissioners have scheduled a joint work session for themselves and the Albany County Planning and Zoning Commission to review the Casper Aquifer Protection Plan and proposed revisions to the Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone’s development regulations.
At their Tuesday meeting, Albany County Planner David Gertsch presented options for updating the Casper Aquifer Protection Plan, or CAPP, an issue that arose when the delineation of the aquifer’s western boundary was questioned in late 2019.
“The most appropriate way to update the Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone in my opinion is to update the Casper Aquifer Protection Plan,” Gertsch said. The CAPP has not been updated since 2011.
Gertsch estimated the update will cost between $75,000 and $125,000. Gertsch suggested the possibility of doing a joint update with the city of Laramie, in which case both governments would share the cost.
The city of Laramie has already made plans to update its own CAPP this year.
The joint work session, scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, will also include a discussion of proposed revisions to the APOZ development rules, which the planning commission signed off on in December.
The regulations were opened to a 45-day public comment period on Dec. 17 and were also subject to a public hearing before going to the Albany County Commission for approval this week.
The regulations came before commissioners Tuesday, where they decided to take a more in-depth look at the regulations in a joint work session to consider the public comments and add clarity to the regulations.
County Attorney Peggy Trent thanked those individuals who made written comments in the 45-day period, saying it was good feedback.
“I think from that, now we’re able to take those comments and incorporate them, and now there’s a lot of policy decisions and discussion that must come from that,” Trent said.
During the public hearing Tuesday, several Laramie locals expressed concerns about the new amendments to the APOZ regulations.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done editorially, to add clarity to the regulations,” Albany County Clean Water Advocates President Sarah Gorin said during the public hearing.
Planning Commission Chairman Shaun Moore echoed Gorin’s concerns, saying “we have definitions that don’t even make sense.”
Trent also agreed the regulations were not ready to be adopted.
Aside from a lack of clarity in the regulation amendments, Laramie locals presented issues with specific amendments.
For instance, the current regulations allow for any party to petition for the APOZ to include a piece of property. The amendment to this regulation would bar anyone but the property owner from petitioning his or her land to be included in the APOZ.
Richard Anderson-Sprecher is a homeowner in the Laramie Plains Subdivision who, in late 2018, tried to get commissioners to review a 6-acre piece of property for possible inclusion into the APOZ.
“You can’t have a situation where the polluter is the only one who can make an objection or say that the polluting should be reviewed,” Anderson said during the hearing.
Maura Hanning, who sits on the city’s planning commission, expressed concern over the amendment’s definition of “expansion” as it pertains to non-conforming uses of the APOZ that have been grandfathered in.
The current regulation allows for nonconforming use expansion if an investigation shows the expansion wouldn’t have “increased hazard to the aquifer.” The new regulation would instead allow for no expansion of nonconforming use at all.
The new regulation defines expansion as occurring “when there is an increase of storage capacity of hazardous materials or the location of the nonconforming use is changed.”
Hanning suggested the county’s definition of expansion should also limit a gas station’s ability to increase its volume of gasoline sales even if the capacity of its storage tanks weren’t increased.
“It’s sort of acknowledging that you can’t run a gas station without losing product into the environment,” Hanning said.
Jason Tangeman, a Laramie attorney who represents Tumbleweed Express, urged commissioners to reject the proposed amendments to APOZ development in a Jan. 30 letter.
“After Albany County dismissed its lawsuit, it appears that the proposed amendments to the APOZ (and companion moratorium) have been almost entirely directed at the Tumbleweed gas station,” Tangeman wrote. “In this regard, we believe the proposed amendments violate Due Process Clauses of both the United States and Wyoming Constitutions. ... The proposed amendments are nothing more than a backdoor attempt to regulate the Tumbleweed property and further constitute an unlawful ‘takings’ as outlined in our prior correspondence.”
The current temporary moratorium on the APOZ is likely to be extended following Monday’s work session to allow for a thorough examination and update of the regulations.