Board members on the Albany County Planning Commission voted against moving forward with proposed revisions to the county’s Casper Aquifer Protection Plan that were brought to the board at a special meeting Monday.
Largely in response to this year’s re-opening of the Tumbleweed Express, Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent had urged revisions, which she drafted with county planner David Gertsch, to create new regulations for development atop the recharge zone of the the aquifer. The aquifer provides about half the city of Laramie’s drinking water.
Monday’s meeting was convened so that the planning board could advance the regulatory rewrites in time for finalization before a temporary moratorium on some aquifer development expires in early January.
Instead, the planning board members overwhelmingly panned the regulatory changes, describing them confusing and criticizing the numerous revisions that were submitted in recent months, sometimes less than a week before their meetings.
The drafted rules would require permits for certain development atop the aquifer, prevent the expansion of a “non-conforming” business like Tumbleweed, and make the issuance of permits contingent upon a property-owners’ compliance with state and federal regulations.
Instead of advancing the proposed rules, the planning board opted to table consideration, asking Gertsch to instead prepare a new version by November 20 and then have the board reconsider the issue at their December meeting.
The regulatory changes would require both a 45-day comment period and approval from Albany County Commissioners. Monday’s postponement means the new timeline will not allow the regulatory changes, if advanced, to be finalized by the time the temporary moratorium expires in early January. However, the planning board said it will consider voting to extend the moratorium but did not do so Monday.
Planning board chairman Shaun Moore said some of the proposed changes, like a requirement for permits and preventing expansion of a non-conforming use, were appropriate.
Board members John Spiegelberg and David Cunningham, however, expressed stronger criticism of any of the proposed changes that have been presented.
“If you ask me, this thing is a mess,” Spiegelberg said. “This is a masterpiece of retroactive legislation. To me, I do not favor any of this. I don’t think it’s fair and I don’t think it would hold up in court one minute.”
Noting that few of the proposed revisions have changed since September, Trent urged for the committee to at least advance the draft, reminding planning commission members that changes can still be made during the 45-day comment period.
Cunningham criticized the process that led to Monday’s vote and said he wanted to know what kind of financial impact the proposal would have on certain land-owners in the aquifer zone.
“This was clearly written by people who don’t know what they’re doing in terms of hazardous waste,” Cunningham said. “I resent the whole way this thing was done. I think it’s so messy that it has to be completely redone. … I am of the opinion that the planning commission was sidelined and not consulted on these issues.”
Cunningham also said the proposed regulations were an example of why his “friends back east” in the financial sector don’t want to invest in Laramie.
“This community has a terrible reputation, and they are … unwilling to invest any serious money because of all the fuss and fury about all the pot-banging that’s taking place,” Cunningham said.