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Some members of Laramie’s City Council expressed concerns Tuesday about potential changes to a parcel of land on the south west corner of 15th Street and the future Bill Nye Avenue that would potentially allow for a meat-packing plant in the area, along with other general commercial uses.

While there’s no currently no interest in putting a meat-packing plant in the area, it would be one of many allowed uses if a zoning change presented by city staff were approved by council.

City staff recommended the change to open up the area for a wide variety of potential commercial uses for tenants of the building, including small contractors or electricians. Laramie Mayor Andi Summerville was one of two council members who said opening the door too generally for commercial operations in the area could be a mistake.

“I do want to see project through,” Summerville said, “but at the same time I think we need to be cognizant about those potential uses that may be far off. I don’t think anybody wants a slaughterhouse up against a residential neighborhood, but we all know that it’s allowed if you change it to that zone.”

Councilwoman Phoebe Stoner, who voted “no” on the measure in the first reading, and Summerville, who was absent for the first reading, both had concerns that the rezoning of the land from B2 to C2, or business to commercial, would have negative impacts to the residential areas close to the parcel of land.

“Once you up-zone, it’s forever,” Stoner said. “I would be more comfortable looking at everything at once and thinking about it holistically rather than setting ourselves up by making a spot zone, especially because they can achieve what they want with a conditional use permit. I do understand that’s going to add about two and a half months, which I know isn’t ideal, but I think with the proximity to the residential area, it’s a better route to achieve the same outcome.”

City Planning Manager Derek Teini said the area is already more suited for commercial-zoned use, and he expects many of the surrounding businesses to make similar requests in the future. He added any noise, sound or odor caused by the business would need to be limited to the zoned area.

“The key factor for staff in this decision was 15{sup}th{/sup} Street and Bill Nye Avenue,” Teini said. “We’re talking about two of the largest streets in our community, creating essentially a commercial node that is already developed commercially. … We did evaluate, ‘Is this a B2 area? Is this an area where we we’re going to see general retail growth?’ and the answer is ‘no.’ It’s too far removed from where retailers are looking for. They’re looking for central locations along other business corridors. This is more of a service corridor.”

Teini said the developer, Bittersweet Group, LLC, plans to split the large building into smaller, individual units but isn’t sure which tenants will be occupying the space yet. He added rezoning from B2 to C2 allows for a wider range of uses by the tenants without having to go through a sometimes months-long conditional permit process.

“It would allow for the interchanging of users to go in and out of the building without having come to an additional review body such as the planning commission,” Teini said. “If we were to leave it B2 zoning, each time one of those people changed over, they would apply for a conditional use permit.”

Councilman Bryan Shuster said he was sorry the permit approval process takes so long, and he added he approves of the zone change to help encourage business growth in Laramie, especially considering the lot, which was an old lumber yard, has been vacant for years.

“When it was a lumber yard it would open at 6 in the morning before most of the residents got up,” Shuster said. “I can’t remember any complaints about it. They left town and we ended up with a huge, empty building. … When he gets people in there and renting, this brings tax dollars into Laramie. I think it’s funny that were going to try to take it apart. You talked about slaughterhouse, the odds of that being a slaughterhouse is absolutely absurd. It was on [the list], but no, it’s not going to happen.”

Looking around the area, most of the businesses are already commercially-oriented, said Councilman David Paulekas. He said instead of limiting business growth, the city should look at taking out potential uses city council doesn’t like.

“You have to assume anything in that zone can happen,” Paulekas said. “But in this case, and when I hear this discussion about the slaughterhouse — the problem isn’t the zone or the area, the problem is if we have slaughterhouses allowed in C2 zoning, that’s something that needs to be changed. Because that’s something that might’ve been workable back in the 1920s or 1930s, but obviously nobody is interested in having a slaughterhouse in any part of our community at this point of time.”

No residents came to speak during time reserved for public comment. Stoner and Summerville were the only council members to vote against the measure.

“My hesitations are simply putting a C2 use up against an R1, I think deserves some careful thought and consideration,” Summerville said. “That’s a very dense housing area down there, and we always catch it later when somebody puts something in there that is not compatible with the residential area.”

(1) comment

MoreCowbell

[yawn] Not a single neighbor showed up. Why is this a thing? [huh]

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