The Albany County Board of Commissioners has reached a compromise on a subdivision proposal east of Laramie that’s been stalled by a standoff between the city of Laramie and landowner Marty McKinney.

By a 2-1 vote, with Commissioners Sue Ibarra and Heber Richardson voting yes and Commissioner Pete Gosar voting no, the commission approved the Stone Ridge Estates subdivision permit application, contingent upon the issue of access being settled.

The commission tabled the application at a previous meeting over the same issue, saying that the landowner hadn’t yet established legal access. The hang-up is the city’s refusal to grant McKinney an access agreement to Quarterhorse Drive and its claim that it can withhold access to the city street without that agreement.

The city implemented its right of way policy for city streets in February, and Assistant City Manager Todd Feezer has declined to comment on the policy.

In the meantime, McKinney explored accessing his property directly onto Grand Avenue by a different easement. However, the landowner to the west will not allow modification to the easement that would be necessary to comply with requirements of the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

Jennifer Curran with the Albany County Attorney’s Office said nearby landowner Duane Toro has already filed a lawsuit against the city over its access policy and Quarterhorse Drive.

“Whether the applicant has the ability to access Quarterhorse Drive is one the applicant and the city are going to have to litigate in the court system,” she said. “I don’t think it’s one this commission has to decide.”

She said the recorded easement abuts the Imperial Heights subdivision, where Quarterhorse Drive ends. McKinney has owned the property for more than a decade and used Quarterhorse Drive to access his home since building it.

“There’s an inference to be made that the intention was that both Quarterhorse and Morgan could be utilized when the easement was put in place,” Curran said.

Attorney Megan Goetz, who represents McKinney, said her client has satisfied the county’s legal standards and that for the county to deny the permit would be “arbitrary and capricious.” The commission granted a permit to an adjacent landowner a year ago despite similar objections by the city.

“We have met all of the county’s standards and conditions,” she said. “If you’re going to change and interpret what your conditions say — that we have to demonstrate legal access to everyone in the world, (even those) who don’t have a jurisdictional argument to contest access — that is, I would argue, a slippery slope and a legal standard that will put this commission and future decisions in legal jeopardy.”

She said the applicant has tried to work with the city without success.

“If the city chooses, as it’s threatened, to impose concrete barricades to all the people who access their property off Quarterhorse Drive, we’ll deal with that. We’ll figure that out with the city.”

The commissioners agreed that the county should not involve itself in the city’s dispute with the landowners, though they disagreed about whether approving or denying the permit was the prudent action.

Either through approval or denial, the county would be in some way involved, Gosar said.

Richardson said he supported approval because, in that case, the commission would be following its own regulations without weighing in on the city’s decisions.

“What the city is doing by trying to restrict traffic on its street isn’t legal,” he said.

In issuing contingent support, Ibarra indicated that some sort of agreement would need to be made between the landowner and the city for the subdivision to proceed.

“I would be willing to make a motion contingent on that being settled between you and the city as far as proper access, and not until you have that with the city,” she said. “I’m not going to commit this commission to making that decision.”

The Stone Ridge Estates Subdivision would be located near the Imperial Heights neighborhood across the street from Walmart and consist of seven lots on a 35-acre parcel for single-family residential use. Lots would range from 2.5-19 acres in size but average 5 acres. The parcel has residential properties to the east, west and south, while undeveloped state land borders its northern edge, home to the Schoolyard trail system.

The city of Laramie has consistently lodged objections to development proposals and zoning changes within the Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone near city limits. Regarding Stone Ridge Estates, the city argued that the subdivision would not conform with the city’s or the county’s comprehensive plans, and that its proposed septic systems and wells would introduce more potential sources of contamination into the Casper Aquifer system, further threatening city wells.

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