Trying to find compromises between the city and developers where it can, the Planning Commission approved a preliminary plat during its Monday meeting with some stipulations after hearing concerns from city staff and residents.
The preliminary plat for the Poledna Addition presented to the Planning Commission Monday evening involves four commercial lots along with the future Bill Nye Avenue’s connection to Third Street.
The area — located north of the spring creek channel, east of Third Street and west of Fifth Street — was originally approved for a preliminary plat and even a final plat in 1950, although almost no construction was ever completed save for some commercial property along Third Street.
Although the plat itself was pretty standard, city staff did have two big conditions, including adding a water line and a traffic light. Additionally, the public had some concerns about potential hazards in the soil of the property.
Both before and during the meeting, citizens made public comment regarding a concern of potential asbestos leftover in the soil from when a shingles factory was located on the land sometime in the 1950s.
Although not required to complete one, Dave Coffey, one of the developers with 3rd Street Partners, LLC, performed a site-specific investigation. The SSI yielded no indications of potential asbestos issues on the land within the last 50-60 years.
The residents who came to the meeting to make public comment were not convinced, however. Annie Nelson, who lives nearby the proposed development, said she was concerned the study only searched records and didn’t test the soils that will be disturbed on site.
“I don’t want to stop progress, but I don’t also want to be breathing in asbestos because somebody went, ‘Oops!’” Nelson said. “So, what kinds of things can be put in place to mitigate an oops, because I don’t want to have asbestos lung-related diseases in 20 years because of where I live.”
Planning Commission member Jordan Giese expressed concerns that the study completed by the developers would not have necessarily found asbestos in the records because it hasn’t always been considered a health hazard.
Bill Nye Ave. traffic light
Despite only meeting seven of the eight engineering warrants necessary to require a traffic light, city staff and the Wyoming Department of Transportation are asking 3rd Street Partners to put in the stoplight in anticipation of the completion of Bill Nye Avenue.
City staff proposed the cost of installing the light be split 50-50 between the developer and the city, but 3rd Street Partners did not agree, especially considering the completion and connection of Bill Nye Avenue isn’t expected for almost a decade. Coffey proposed instead the developers pay 25% and the city 75% of the cost.
“We don’t think it’s fair for us to pay for any more than that given the fact that it’s something that, really through the letter of the code that the city uses, it’s not warranted,” Coffey said during the meeting.
Planning Commission member Marc Homer, however, didn’t want to rush to reduce the percentages to 25-75 just to please a developer or with the hope WYDOT will decide to contribute funds.
“I guess I’m just saying we should really act carefully with this, because I don’t know how much this costs, but that could cost a lot of money and someone’s got to pay for it,” Homer said. “We’re all paying taxes, and someone has got to pay for the light.”
Giese added he was surprised WYDOT could push for a traffic light without the intersection meeting the warrants and without any offer to help fund it.
Although the plat is already serviced by two water lines, city staff requested the developer include plans for an additional one to create redundancy.
City civil engineer Eric Milliken said during the meeting redundancy is a way for city staff to ensure the surrounding area still has access to water in the event of a malfunction requiring utilities staff to turn off the water line.
Coffey said he wasn’t sure the additional redundancy was necessary and considered it a city “want, not a need.”
After a lengthy discussion, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the preliminary plat, with requirements for additional soil sampling for asbestos, the funding for the traffic signal be split 25-75 and to not require the additional water line.
The commission voted unanimously in approval for the soil testing.
Commission member Homer was the sole vote against the 25-75 split.
The waterline vote, however, was split 3-3.
Chairman Jim McGrath chose to recuse himself from the vote and discussion.
The Laramie City Council also must approve the plat and the conditions recommended by the Planning Commission.