The Mills City Council has approved a parking waiver and a five-year property lease for SIPS Coffee along Wyoming Boulevard. (Rhonda Schulte, Oil City News)

MILLS, Wyo. — With a city lease and approved site plan in place along with a special off-site parking waiver, Glenrock resident Kaylynn Henson is preparing to open a coffee hut on City of Mills property.

The 240-square-foot SIPS Coffee building will have two drive-up windows, one for mobile orders only with no customer waiting expected and another for on-site orders. 

Some people are worried the triangle-shaped lot is too small to handle volume off-site traffic, and the location at the corner of 6th Street and Wyoming Boulevard, which also serves as Wyoming Highway 258, presents increased potential for accidents when the coffee hut opens at 733 6th St.

Longtime Mills resident Bob Hubbard, who owns adjoining commercial property, said he is not opposed to a new coffee shop, just its location. He cited a fear of vehicles bottlenecking, especially during “rush hours.”

“They are creating a massive traffic problem, in my opinion,” Hubbard wrote in an Aug. 20 missive campaigning against the coffee shop location.

On Aug. 8, the Mills City Council unanimously approved a five-year lease with Henson for commercial use of the city property near City Hall. In addition to $600 per month rent, Henson must pay taxes and all utilities, maintain insurance and make repairs to the property, including the building, the parking lot, cleaning and repair of all sewer lines. As landlord, the city is not obligated to provide any services or pay any expenses with respect to the property, the lease states.  

At the Aug. 22 Mills City Council meeting, City Planner Megan Nelms described the lot of about 4,000 square feet as an “abnormal shape surrounded on all sides with right of way.”

During the Aug. 8 Mills City Council meeting, City Attorney Pat Holscher said Henson must show area for five vehicles stacked at each drive-up window or request an exception to the city’s off-street parking requirement for drive-up windows to eating and drinking establishments. Henson applied for the waiver, asking the City Council to reduce the required parking from five stacked vehicles at each drive-up window to two vehicles per window. 

As required by city zoning code, a letter was sent informing neighboring property owners about the off-street parking waiver request for SIPS Coffee. Signed by Nelms, the letter is dated Aug. 11.

“If you should have any concerns or comments, you are invited to attend the following City Council meeting [at 7 p.m. Aug. 22] where the request will be reviewed and acted on by the Mills City Council,” the letter reads.

Mayor Leah Juarez did not allow people at the Aug. 22 council meeting to speak until well after she and Councilors Sara McCarthy, Cherie Butcher, Brad Neumiller and Tim Sutherland had voted 5–0 to approve a resolution granting the waiver application. Henson must comply with all conditions of the site plan agreement, the resolution states.

In a separate unanimous vote Aug. 22, the council OK’d the site plan for Henson’s 12-by-20-square-foot skid building. The site plan shows parking and landscaping. Councilors had earlier addressed changes in the landscaping to improve line-of-sight for oncoming traffic and added installation of wider approaches to assist with traffic flow. The council has also required a right-hand-turn only sign for drivers exiting onto Wyoming Boulevard.

A SIPS Coffee site plan sketch from an Aug. 3 City of Mills Planning and Zoning Commission meeting packet shows a portion of undeveloped Johnson Street that runs behind the city’s triangle-shaped lot. Hubbard’s property is behind the bordering fence.

Rocky and Kristen Carlson live in Casper but said they have interests in property adjacent to the city parcel. At an Aug. 8 council meeting, Kristen had asked for the on-site vehicle waiver process, saying she was concerned Henson was “ambitious” with the number of cars allowed. 

The Carlsons spoke on the topic again during open discussion Aug. 22 toward the end of the meeting and after the council had approved the two SIPS Coffee resolutions.

“I thought the point of the letter [from Nelms about the waiver] was so people could come and talk before the council voted,” Rocky said. 

With room for only two cars on both sides of the building, extra vehicles will end up waiting to enter the property and cars will back up onto the streets, he said, emphasizing concern about the extra traffic.

Juarez said revisions to the site plan will address some of those parking issues. 

“I thought the requirements were that you were to allow everybody to speak before you voted to pass that [waiver],” Rocky said.

“I don’t believe the statute is that way,” Juarez said.

Adding a clarification, McCarthy said the notification letter wasn’t to allow for public comment.

“That’s not true,” Kristen said, offering to provide her copy of the letter. “We’re confused why we didn’t [provide comment] before you voted,” she said, “at least for consideration, even just for good measure to make it look like you’re trying to be fair and equitable, rather than what this is.” 

When Hubbard stepped to the podium and also complained about the process, Juarez backed McCarthy’s statement, saying a public hearing was not required — simply a letter to neighbors that a business had requested a waiver. 

Robert Hubbard, right, speaks to the Mills City Council from the City Hall council gallery Aug. 22. (Rhonda Schulte, Oil City News)

Scott Clamp also questioned traffic flow and said he was opposed to a situation in which traffic backs up onto streets, specifically Southwest Wyoming Boulevard. Clamp was assured the council had addressed potential problems.

Neumiller said vehicles may enter the property either via 6th Street or Wyoming Boulevard. Two cars are allowed at either drive-up window. Drivers may exit onto Wyoming Boulevard by right turn only. Drivers exiting onto 6th Street may go straight ahead down Johnson Street or turn right or left onto 6th.

“This went through WYDOT and they didn’t see an issue on their end of it,” Neumiller said.

According to the Aug. 3 Mills P&Z Commission documents, the Wyoming Department of Transportation, while not requiring an access permit, has stipulated that traffic may not back up onto Southwest Wyoming Boulevard.

Read a copy of an Aug. 11 letter from the City of Mills to neighboring landowners regarding the SIPS Coffee off-street parking waiver:

Read the SIPS Coffee original site plan documents below. City councilors have requested several revisions since the P&Z commission recommended council approval Aug. 3.