The Municipal Building’s main sign is pictured Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Cheyenne. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – At a busy meeting Monday night, the Cheyenne City Council gave its vote of approval on an annexation, rezone and final plat for the Whitney Ranch subdivision, north of Dell Range near Whitney Road.

Homes by Guardian Vice President Joe Patterson said it was one of the “most scrutinized annexation processes ever,” noting that the development company has been more proactive than required in getting these plans approved by the city.

“It’s important to understand that we’ve been working diligently with city staff and the other appropriate agencies and departments on the design and functionality of the plan, well in advance of tonight’s meeting,” Patterson said, noting that they’ve reviewed plans and design with city staff in a process that’s not normally done until after the final plat is approved.

During previous council meetings, however, a number of residents who live near Homes by Guardian’s Thomas Heights subdivision voiced their concerns about drainage designs and whether residents near Whitney Ranch would be subject to the same flooding they are.

City staff worked closely with the developer on the drainage plans for Whitney Ranch, which involve capturing stormwater and sending it through a pipe to its final destination, and feel confident the designs will serve their purpose.

“I think we’ve learned a lesson from it,” Mayor Patrick Collins said last week. “I think our partners that review these things are going to look at (them) with a little bit more critical eye to make sure that we’re not going to repeat what happened in the past.”

The subdivision is expected to encompass 107 single-family homes under the current phase, and Homes by Guardian plans to carry out multiple building phases for the development at Whitney Ranch.

And to help pay for the increased emergency services that will be required with the entire Whitney Ranch developments, the council approved the city’s first-ever development agreement, where the developer will pay the city to help fund fire protection. Patterson said Homes by Guardian is proud to be a pioneer of that kind of agreement, and that the company is proud to contribute to the community.

“We take pride in living in our community, as well. Our owners might be out of Minnesota, but all of our employees are local here – we sit on commissions and boards, and we’re members of the Chamber (of Commerce), and we’re members of different associations, and we’re proud of that, too,” Patterson said. “So it’s not fair to shake a stick at us and say we’re only here for the money. That’s not correct.”

The total fees for this phase of the Whitney Ranch development will be $80,892, which will be placed in the city’s Development Impact Fund earmarked for the purpose of enhancing the Cheyenne Fire Rescue infrastructure.

Collins said, “Thank you for being the first to agree to impact fees; it’s hopefully going to become the wave of the future for our city.”

With the city having drafted its own solution to the Thomas Heights drainage issues, Councilmen Pete Laybourn and Tom Segrave also posed the question of whether a similar agreement for drainage costs could be a possibility for the future.

“I think this is a real opportunity for us to think about a stormwater utility and a fee that will allow us to build and maintain funds and the maintenance of Dry Creek itself and these detention ponds that we’re building,” Laybourn said. “That’s the city’s responsibility, so I hope we’re all thinking about that, because this is another case of lessons learned and progress we need to make.”

Allowing open containers

The council amended its open container rules to allow for more events with beer and wine downtown and at Frontier Park, like Summertime on the Streets last year.

Now, the possession of open containers will be allowed from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the downtown district from the Thursday before Memorial Day to Labor Day. Open containers will also be allowed on July 4, Cheyenne Day and Statehood Day. Councilman Richard Johnson noted that the early start time will open the possibility for the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade or pancake breakfast.

“We do believe that this will be very positive in our work to make Cheyenne a destination and encourage additional tourism and travel to downtown,” Downtown Development Authority Director Amber Ash said. “We also feel like this would be very positive for our ability to onboard events. Previously, we had to have a resolution passed by City Council, which meant we had to allow enough time to put it on the agenda.”

The DDA held a number of events last summer that utilized open containers of alcohol with council approval, which proved itself useful in attracting people downtown and supporting downtown businesses. Cheyenne Police Lt. David Janes added that CPD hadn’t seen any negative effects related to the events last summer.

Visit Cheyenne CEO Domenic Bravo said, “This last summer was a great test case for this type of law change. Being able to have specific events around having the open container in the downtown proved very successful for what we were trying to accomplish – in both us serving our residents and having travelers come to see us here in our community.”

Laybourn was the only councilman who voted no, citing the broadness of the ordinance and the negative impact it might have on family friendly events.

“It’s way too broad, and I think it doesn’t take into consideration things like the parents that are gonna be down at our plaza this summer all day long with their children at the splash pad, and people are sitting there drinking,” Laybourn said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

CFR evaluation

The council approved a resolution directing Cheyenne Fire Rescue to evaluate all of its facilities and operations by July 31, as “the city of Cheyenne is facing an unprecedented budget crisis and the current costs of services are unsustainable,” the resolution reads.

The department, under Interim Chief John Kopper, will look at operations, staffing, facilities, training, prevention, call response times, equipment and the general public’s safety, as well as prepare a report outlining the department’s costs.

The move comes as Cheyenne Fire Rescue is seeking $20.7 million from the sixth-penny sales tax to upgrade long outdated equipment, and relocate and renovate multiple fire stations to be more efficient.

“I have serious concerns about the sustainability of our current system, and this resolution simply asks the fire chief to review other options that may or may not be out there,” resolution sponsor and Councilman Segrave said.

Nationway reconstruction design

The council approved a $72,520 professional services agreement with Western Research and Development for design and construction management services on the Nationway and 12th Street Reconstruction Project, paid for from the 2019-2022 fifth-penny sales tax.

The project includes: an overlay of Nationway, sidewalk upgrades at the bus stop on Ridge Road, a signal upgrade and redesign for the intersection with Ridge Road, and the rehabilitation of 12th Street to College Drive, which includes curbs and gutters.

Both Councilwoman Michelle Aldrich and Councilman Laybourn voiced the desire to improve pedestrian safety along Nationway in the design process, with Aldrich noting the two pedestrians who have been recently hit on that street. Aldrich also said she’s received a call from a parent in the Cole Addition neighborhood who is concerned about kids crossing Nationway to get to Lebhart Elementary. And Laybourn noted his concerns about Greenway users’ safety.

“It’s been demonstrated that this is a matter of life and death in some situations, and while we are creating and improving that roadway, again, I think that we definitely ought to be taking a stronger look at how people can come out of the neighborhood and access the Greenway,” Laybourn said.

PACE financing

The council approved a resolution that directs city staff to initiate, develop and execute a Property Assessed Clean Energy program in the city of Cheyenne, which uses financial incentives to encourage developers to make their properties more energy efficient.

Under this program, the developer would receive funding from PACE financing to cover the initial costs of energy-related upgrades, which in Cheyenne, will be beneficial in the development of older buildings. The city connects those seeking funding for energy efficient improvements with third-party lenders, and the city then manages the PACE loans.

“What this allows is for private individuals and buildings to apply for PACE financing for clean energy improvements to their buildings,” Planning and Development Director Charles Bloom said. “This is a program that instead of tying it to property owners, that will tie it to the property itself. It allows for up to 100% financing for these energy enhancements. And additionally, it removes obstacles toward redevelopment.”

Capitol Basin storm sewer extension

The council approved a $3.2 million bid from P.E.I. Wyoming for the Capitol Basin 26th Street Interceptor Storm Sewer Extension project, which will include about $1.12 million from the city, $1.55 million from the state and $520,000 from the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities.

The city will complete some curb and gutter renovations, and the state will cover stormwater improvements to protect the renovation of the Capitol and the underground hallway that connects it to the Herschler Building.

The project should be completed by July 1, 2022.

Collins’ emergency procurement

Mayor Collins gave notice of an emergency procurement he issued for the traffic light at East Pershing Boulevard and Logan Avenue. On March 20, a traffic incident caused “substantial damage” to the traffic signal pole, to the point where it was at risk of falling.

The $73,250 repair will use a light from the 24th and 25th Street traffic light upgrades for Logan and Pershing to save on renting temporary signals. New signals will then be purchased for the other project.

Problems at the intersection would’ve persisted for six months to a year without the emergency procurement, as stated in the council document.

Supporting Cruise the Legend

The council passed a resolution supporting the Cruise the Legend events held in Cheyenne, where residents gather along Warren and Central to watch a parade of residents’ cars.

CPD Lt. Janes told the council that CPD has not seen an increase in calls or accidents from the event.

Councilwoman Aldrich said, “I really believe that this has provided a lot of opportunity for our nonprofit community to be able to raise funds. I think it’s a family friendly activity; it’s been one that has proven to be fairly safe, and not have a huge impact in light of COVID, and I also think that it brings a lot of business to our downtown business area.”

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 at @MargaretMAustin.

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