The Natrona County Planning and Zoning Commission will hear two requests today to change the zoning of areas north and south of Casper at its meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the old courthouse.

The county's development department, which does the field work for the commission, is recommending the Antelope Hills Estates north of Casper have a unified zoning category, its director Jason Gutierrez said.

It's not logical that a resident in Antelope Hills 15 miles north of Casper can have chickens according to the current zoning, while his next-door neighbor cannot because that property is zoned differently, he said.

"It's had a checkerboard of zoning," Gutierrez said. "We're going to a broader use."

Department officials have met with Antelope Hills residents, who have overwhelmingly supported a change so the area will not have any Urban Mixed Residential (UMR) areas, but be fully zoned Rural Residential One (RR-1), he said.

The other proposed zoning change would be for 778 acres south of Casper in an area owned by the East Elkhorn Ranch LLC, Gutierrez said.

Earlier this year, the ranch bought a section -- 640 acres or one square mile -- and about 216 acres of other school lands from the Office of State Lands and Investments for $1.65 million, according to Natrona County property records.

The section had been zoned Urban Agriculture (UA) until 2004 when it was rezoned as Mountain Residential One (MR-1), Gutierrez said.

East Elkhorn Ranch wants that rezoned back to UA for its ranching operations that extend east to Hat Six Road, he said. The ranch has developed reservoirs and other infrastructure on its property at the base of Casper Mountain, he added.

The MR-1 designation is problematic because it only allows agricultural operations such as grazing as an accessory to being a resident. UA is geared toward commercial agricultural operations, Gutierrez said.

This land would be difficult to develop residential areas because its rough terrain is windy, rocky and steep, he said.

However, four homeowners who live on Scenic Drive south of Wyoming Boulevard and about a mile west of the East Elkhorn Ranch property have objected to the proposed zoning change.

They sent similar letters to the development department, saying they bought land and built houses because of the area's natural beauty. "In addition, we are concerned that changing the area land use could affect our investment by lowering property valuations, especially allowing mobile homes and the miscellaneous conditional use activities which can be allowed under the UA designation," they wrote.

If the Planning and Zoning Commission approves the proposed changes, they will forward them to the Natrona County Commission for final approval.

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