Mixed Response To Mixed Use in Casper [AUDIO]
Casper City Officials were taken by surprise when a small, but persistent group of citizen spoke out against proposed amendments to Casper Municipal Code allowing an expansion of "mixed use" in some areas of the city. In the end the amendments passed Tuesday evening, but only by one vote.
Mixed Use squeaked by as one of a number of changes to Casper's zoning code this week. The council meeting had a sprinkling of citizens, both for, and against the code changes, with some residence taking to the podium.
"A lot of people are talking. It's been in the newspaper. A lot of people don't like it. It's just another step and just more control for the government... I bought my home, because I liked the neighborhood the way it was. This ordinance will fundamentally change our residential neighborhoods... My concern here is that we're creating more bureaucracy and more extensive rules and guidelines that the property owner will fall under."
Greg Flesvig, Carol Katz, and Linda Bergeron addressed the council before the vote. Two dissenting City Council members said their no votes came after getting predominantly negative input from constituents.
Council member, Kenyne Schlager, made a motion to exclude R-1 and R-2 zones from the mixed use amendments. That motion did not pass. In the end the changes passed on a 5-4 vote.
The amendments under fire will expand some uses in some areas. Mayor Paul Bertoglio pointed out that in most cases special use permits would still be required with all the associated checks and balances.
"There is the ability and recourse for counsel to review each applicant and I think that's the important thing. What's going on right now is we're going in the opposite direction and we're actually allowing our neighborhoods to be encroached upon by small commercial or retail businesses that are simply getting things re-zoned and then we are losing control of our neighborhoods. I understand the fears about neighborhood grocery stores. I ask you to sit back and really think; Grant Street Grocers is a great facility, but the reality is they're history. You're not gonna see one. My grandfather had one. Loved it. They're disappearing. They're being replaced by large grocery stores. They're not going to pop up in your neighborhood."
Council members in support voiced the belief that most fears were unfounded or based on a confusion as to what mixed use implies.
City Staff reviewed the continued requirement for off-street parking by any small business and clarified that convenience stores, for example, are not included in the allowable uses. Supporting members also insist the changes give property owners more freedom not less. Council member Kate Sarosy questioned Community Development Director April Getchius.
"People can do more with their property than they could before and doesn't increase bureaucracy. Were not adding any people or layers of government at either the federal or state level. Its up to people to decide themselves how they want to use their property if it fits the list of permitted uses. The Authority is simply with the local government. Is that correct. Correct, your honor, there won't be any additional staff or regulation that comes with this."
Getchius also walked through a full-circle history lesson pointing out how mixed use is not new, but rather, a return to pre WWII zoning ideas that allow, even encourage, small businesses like grocery stores and dentists to be within walking distance of a residential area.
To review the changes made to the Casper Municipal code follow this link to the city of Casper on line council agenda packet.
If you really want to get into it here's a link to the city's municipal code;