Hitching Post Inn file

The Hitching Post Inn sign is seen Saturday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Cheyenne. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Though the Cheyenne City Council killed the contract to buy a portion of the Hitching Post Inn property at its Monday meeting, city staff will continue their due diligence in keeping the project rolling.

The council has been postponing the purchase since its meeting Nov. 12, and the majority decided Monday that it was better to let the purchase agreement die so it could be brought up again later, rather than to postpone it once again.

“This is going to be a good project,” Councilman Dicky Shanor said. “But before we approve it, we really have to get the numbers dialed in.”

With the $329,630 purchase, the city would acquire two buildings, but more importantly, it would acquire access to the city-owned and operated Ice and Events Center from Lincolnway. Right now, the city only has an easement to use that stretch of land, so the city can’t put in new lighting or fencing to improve safety due to lack of ownership.

“The fundamental purpose is to gain access to the Ice and Events Center,” City Attorney Mike O’Donnell said. “That’s really critical here.”

The main reason this agreement was previously postponed is because city staff was unsure how much abatement for the two asbestos-ridden buildings would cost.

The estimate to abate the entire 10-acre property was $2.1 million.

Developers usually only offer cost estimates during a request for proposal, but the city can only send out an RFP if it owns the property in question. O’Donnell said that problem has made getting solid abatement numbers for the buildings in question difficult.

O’Donnell also noted that the city doesn’t have to abate the buildings. It has the option to resell the buildings as they are; abate, then resell; or demolish them and use the land.

If the city does buy the property, it will be immediately stabilized with a new fence and better lighting. Chief Building Official Bruce Trembath estimated the stabilization would cost just over $60,000.

Going forward, the council directed city staff to consolidate all the information they have on this purchase into a report, which will be considered by the council when it’s finished.

By killing the motion instead of postponing it, council will not have to bring the item up at its Dec. 19 meeting, although that prospect is still on the table.

Mayor Marian Orr and Councilmen Pete Laybourn and Jeff White voted to approve the project, but the purchase agreement died without council majority.

“I worry about if we let it die tonight, what message that sends to developers,” White said.

Previously, Chief Economic Development Officer Brendan Ames said the city’s investment in this property can spur other developments in the area. The west edge of the city has been an acknowledged issue for sometime, and staff hopes this project will cause a domino effect on that side of town.

At Monday’s meeting, Ames said the easement, which the city doesn’t own, was already causing some issues for a developer who is building a new hotel where the Atlas Motel is now. O’Do-nnell also noted that additional developers were waiting to buy the front properties because of the easement.

“What we just did was take a step backward on a very important project,” Laybourn said.

While Laybourn and White said killing the agreement could look bad to interested developers, Councilman Mark Rinne said it also looks bad to keep postponing the project. He said it would be better to just bring the agreement back when it was ready for “prime time.”

“Our attorneys are not going to set this on the back burner and wait until summer to come back,” Rinne said. “They will continue with their diligent efforts.”

The city will continue to look at how this purchase can impact the West Edge. Orr said this investment can increase property value in the area and spur new development, but that the most critical piece is gaining ownership of the easement to the Ice and Events Center.

“Definitely, we want to get this right,” Orr said.

In other business

Laybourn and Justin Gorman from the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce recognized Jason Sanchez and his team for all the hard work they put in to prepare the streets for the Christmas Parade, which took place Saturday night.

“I just wanted to give some special recognition to your crew for going down on Thursday and Friday morning and cleaning those sidewalks and gutters so we could have the Christmas Parade,” Laybourn said.

The parade was postponed for the first time ever due to high winds and snowy conditions, but Sanchez’s team made sure the city streets were parade-ready a week later.

Sanchez, deputy director of Community Recreation and Events, said he has the privilege to work with “an amazing group of people,” shouting out all the departments that helped. Gorman, who helped organize the parade, said the collaboration was great to see.

“It was really cool the way the organizations came together with what Mother Nature dealt us, and if it wasn’t for Jason and his crew, we couldn’t have had the parade,” Gorman said.

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter @MargaretMAustin.

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