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City denies bid to change zoning on vacant plot

Apr 6, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff Writer

The Riverton City Council has rejected the rezoning of the Fuechsel property near the Spencer subdivision in north Riverton.

The petitioner, Jeffery Fuechsel, said he would like to develop the area into a welding business but has had problems developing a proper access point. The ordinance would have rezoned Lot 2, the Fuechsel addition, from agricultural, AG, to light industrial, I-1.

On Tuesday, property owners near the area said they had concerns with an industrial business being located there.

The planning commission had a public hearing Feb. 23 and recommended approval of the rezoning of Lot 2 with a vote of 5 to 2. City of Riverton staff received a petition from 10 adjoining property owners protesting the proposed zone change.

Resident Mark Washenfelder has lived in Riverton for 25 years and said the property has been a horse pasture for as long as he can remember.

"I feel like everything has a place, and this horse pasture is not meant to be a welding and fabrication shop," Washenfelder said Tuesday at the council meeting. "The noise and all of the truck traffic would not be a good idea for an area where people live."

Washenfelder asked the council members to think about whether they would like a welding shop built right next to their homes.

"I think the answer would be no," Washenfelder said. "This property will have an opportunity to be sold in the future, but this business is not meant for a residential neighborhood."

The Rev. Linda Norris, of United Presbyterian Church, said surrounding property owners are not interested in the area becoming light industrial.

"You don't put something that the land might not even be able to support," Norris said. "You don't put heavy trucks through a neighborhood. The church would not like to see a big industrial building in our backyard."

The master plan shows the area as high density residential. Additional access would be required for emergency vehicles and the amount of traffic the multi-family residences or apartments would generate. Currently, there is no access from the future Broadway Avenue extension to the west. An estimation to reconstruct Lewis Street from Webbwood Road to the proposed site would cost roughly $637,000.

City staff and the developer have continued to address the access issues but have been unable to come up with a resolution.

Ivan Judd, the listing broker for the Fuechsel property, approached the council and thanked them for their patience and apologized for the time the Fuechsel developers had taken.

"We undertook this project in the hopes of being successful but have run into some problems as far as figuring out an access point and feel as if we need some more time to work this out," Judd said.

Babs Kruse, who has lived on her property for 28 years, said property owners cannot just pick up and move when something unpleasant happens.

"We have put down our roots in this area, literally and figuratively," Kruse said. "This isn't just a residential area, these are our homes. This is a neighborhood of people and I feel very strongly that light industry is not suitable for an area surrounded by residents. I would ask the council to consider how you would feel if the property right next to you was suddenly zoned as light residential, and I am hoping you will vote no on the zoning request."

Tanis Manning addressed the council and said that at one time, the property was being considered for a school.

"What a jump that at one time we were considering this area for children, and I just don't think we have thought about the kids and the face of Riverton," Manning said. "I understand this man will be presenting jobs for the community, but I think we are somewhat discounting that end of town. Our classrooms are burgeoning with faces, and I think we need to keep the kids in mind here too."

Councilman Richard Gard asked why the planning commission originally approved the property to be rezoned.

"The property was never really zoned in the master plan," said Mark Sehnert, speaking on behalf of the planning commission. "It was missed, and the way our board saw it was that it would be OK as light industrial. That is pretty much the gist of our conversation and how we voted."

Councilwoman Diana Mahoney said there was construction going up near her and Councilman Eric Heiser's area two years ago, which is why they came up with the master plan.

"I am very comfortable voting this rezone down and happy for the master plan. I think it is going well," Mahoney said.

Gard voted against the rezone and said that at some point, Fuechsel is going to have to sell his property, and the council needs to have some flexibility.

"I have some reservations that we have to tell Mr. Fuechsel that he has to continue with a horse pasture with no profit," Gard said. "I appreciate the accounts that have been presented to us, and the property is a nice deer field right now, yet Mr. Fuechsel would like to get out of his property at some point."

Council members were unanimous in their vote to reject the rezone of the property.

Canal addition

The council did adopt the zoning designation on first reading of Wyoming No. 2 Canal addition as residential district "B."

The property was bought by the city to extend Major Avenue to Riverview Road. The land is located north of Riverview Road and west of Major Avenue. In 2011, the Wyoming No. 2 Canal plot was approved as an addition to the city of Riverton. The plot created one lot that the city planned to sell, but it still required zoning.

The property is now going to be sold, but the sale is contingent upon the zoning of the land.

Steve Wadsworth said he has lived near the property for seven years and wanted to let the council know he was worried about what sort of property was going to go in.

"Personally, I wish my wife and I would have been approached to buy the piece of property," Wadsworth said. "We came home one afternoon from teaching school, and there is a 'for sale' sign on the property. By the time we had a chance to think about the possibility of buying it, there were already two bids on it."

Wadsworth said he thought the way things were handled did not allow for any input, and he is concerned on what might be built near his home.

Mayor Ron Warpness said he found it funny that the council was being accused of moving fast on something.

"Normally we are accused of being glacial," Warpness said.

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