CASPER, Wyo — The proposed rezoning of a 43-acre parcel off of Poison Spider Road west of Casper was the subject on an unusual amount of consternation for the Natrona County Commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday, September 15.
The 43-acre parcel technically represent an illegal subdivision, given that the 2 properties there have two separate owners in a Ranching, Agricultural, and Mining (RAM) zone. The minimum lot size is 35 acres in a RAM zone, though exceptions exist. The owners of the properties, Taylor Cook and Kay Page, are filing to have it rezoned to Urban Agriculture (UA), which allows a lot per ten acres.
Some neighbors told the commissioners they worried the two lots would become four. That could happen in a UA zone, but the owners would have to come before the commissioners before splitting a lot again.
The sale of the second property by original owner Jerry Cook to Taylor was done under a presumed statutory “family exemption” to RAM district subdivision rules, said the applicants’ attorney, Keith Nachbar. Subsequent filings with the county clerk’s and assessor’s offices recognizing the two ownerships established the illegal subdivision.
Because of this, Cook and Page cannot do any business with the county.
“When the illegal subdivision occurred,” county Planning and Zoning Director Jason Gutierrez said, “we put a notice-on-filing against the property, saying that no permits would be issued until it’s resolved…. A zone change would be clean way to address this.”
“She wants to sell and he wants to build a garage,” Nachbar said of his clients. Neither can happen until a zone change resolves the illegality of the zone.
Gutierrez and Nachbar said rezoning would also line up with the 2016 Natrona County Development Plan, which anticipates a growing demand for 10-acre, single-family lots west of town. In fact, the Cook parcel is immediately adjacent to a large piece of land zoned UA, and so would not be considered “spot zoning.”
They pointed out that nine lots on 8 Mile Road had recently sold within a year and some had been developed into half-million dollar properties. The new Poison Spider school and upgraded district water infrastructure also evidenced growth, they said,
This is the fourth attempt by the applicants to get the land rezoned. Two failed Planning and Zoning board approval and a third died before the county commissioners in 2012.
“If I remember right, we had an overwhelming amount of people that didn’t want a whole lot of neighbors out there,” said Chairman Rob Hendry.
Two residents from neighboring lots spoke in opposition to the rezoning Tuesday, noting that it was illegal to begin with and had been rejected by the county previously. Neighbor Curtis Lee added that COVID-19 was likely to put a damper on the county planning department’s touted residential expansion plans in the area.
“The resistance to smaller acreages hasn’t changed,” said Commissioner Forrest Chadwick. “Other than the Cooks, I haven’t heard of anyone out there who wants it.”
“We didn’t create this situation but it’s one we find ourselves in,” said Commissioner Paul Bertolgio: “I will reluctantly vote to approve… I don’t see how to move this forward by postponing or denying.”
“We almost have to do this,” Kaufman said. “What happens if we don’t?”
“Then we’re in limbo, like we are now,” Hendry said.
“This is us having to clean up a back-door move to subdivide this property,” said Chadwick. “I don’t like that at all. Not at all. I cannot support this motion.”
The commissioners also believed the Cooks had another option: one property owner could buy out the other and then file to subdivide like other properties in the area that are exceptions to the RAM zoning rule.
Commissioner Brook Kaufman said there was enormous amount of frustration about the situation weighing on her reluctant vote in favor.
Commissioner Milne abstained, saying he had an interest in the area. That left Chairman Hendry to cast the “nay” that tied the four. Hendry told Oil City News later that he agreed with Chadwick that rezoning was not the way to fix something that hadn’t been done right in the first place.
County attorney Eric Nelson confirmed that the tie vote meant the motion had been defeated, and the illegal subdivision remains.
“Alright,” Hendry said. “Thanks everyone for testifying on that one.”