August 5, 2008

Ice Center Trade Causes Agitation With Neighbors

By Jodi Rogstad

By Jodi Rogstad

[email protected]

CHEYENNE - The second part of the city's land-for-ice deal is not going over well with neighbors.

Monday night, the Cheyenne Planning Commission voted 4-0 to reject a zone change for 4.27 acres of land north of Storey Boulevard, between Blue Bluff and Canyon Road.

This happens to be one of the pieces of land the city traded in December for the Taco John's Events Center. After the trade, the landowners sought a zone change.

Since the land is now privately owned, it has to shed its public designation - so it has to be rezoned to something.

In this case, the ice-center investors-turned-landowners want to sell the land for commercial or business development and are seeking that zoning. Land for commercial development fetches a higher price than it does for housing.

This scares neighbors living south of Storey Boulevard.

The 4.27 acres in question is surrounded by city park land and land owned by Laramie County School District 1.

This would not only wreck their view of open prairie and soccer fields, it would change the character of the neighborhood, they said.

"I'm flabbergasted we'd put anything commercial there, making it unsafe for children," said Annette Widney, one of many neighbors who packed the City Council Chambers. "Add to that the traffic, noise and light pollution, and the property value decrease."

In addition, there is no telling what would be built there, she added, "a putt-putt or a liquor store."

The neighborhood response and turnout was strong, rivaling that of the 2006 smoking ban vote. Planning commissioners and City Councilmen alike received a stack of letters from residents of Crest View and Mustang Ridge housing developments.

What might have to happen, said Cheyenne City Councilman Patrick Collins after the planning commission voted, is the city would have to find another piece of land to complete the trade.

Local Realtor John Volk said he did not fault the investors for wanting to get something of value out of their trade with the city.

Volk and others said their biggest fear lies in the domino effect that could occur with the adjacent swath of

See Ice, page 5

vacant land running alongside this property on Storey Boulevard. This is owned by Laramie County School District 1 - what if they surplus that land and more commercial or retail developers buy it?

"To put a commercial development right in the middle of the park doesn't make sense at all," Volk said.

This was not the ordinary not-in-my-backyard protest. It was not as if they were disappointed their neighbor didn't plan to keep his acres of land empty for them.

Lisa Sanders said when her family bought their house, they were told that land to the north was slated for a school and a park.

"We were thrilled," she said.

If a gas station or restaurant goes up there, she said, the bedrooms of her children would directly face it.

"We did our research," said Jackie Callies, who recently moved to Cheyenne with her husband. "The city did assure us this is open space and is not in danger of development."

The landowners do have the option of appealing the decision to the Cheyenne City Council, said staff from the city's development office.

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