Not In My Backyard: Planning and Zoning Rejects Big Horn Community Center Permit and Ranchester Rezone

Construction crews repair the damage done by a fire in SCSD 1's bus barn, property where the SCSD 1 Recreation District proposed to construct a tennis facility and community center. (Photo by Stan Woinoski)
Construction crews repair the damage done by a fire in SCSD 1's bus barn, property where the SCSD 1 Recreation District proposed to construct a tennis facility and community center. (Photo by Stan Woinoski)

Sheridan Media's Chris Foy brings us the latest from last Thursday's meeting of the Sheridan County Planning and Zoning Commission.

It was standing room only Thursday night as adjacent landowners and concerned citizens packed the boardroom of the Sheridan County Courthouse. After well over an hour of public comment, the commissioners unanimously rejected both a conditional use permit for the Big Horn Community Center and tennis facility, as well as a rezone of a significant portion of urban residential land in Ranchester to an agricultural designation.

First up was the Big Horn Community Center. Owned by Sheridan County School District 1's Recreation District, the group has proposed building a 21,250 square foot tennis facility and a 7,000 square foot community center on nearly 3 acres in a rural residential zone near the Big Horn Junction. It's within a low density area made up of pastures and mainly rural residences, and both the commissioners and many attendees agreed it wasn't the right place for a proposed 44-foot tall tennis facility.

On the same piece of property, there was once the old Lutheran church, which eventually became a bus barn for SCSD 1. In August of 2012, the then-bus barn went up in flames.

At Thursday's meeting, Ranchester resident Susan Porden spoke out against the issuance of the permit.

Some were in favor of the development, from avid tennis players who said they desire an indoor facility for use during the winter months to Sheridan residents and school district representatives who said the community is in dire need of a community center for current and future generations.

Many adjacent property owners echoed different sentiments. For one, many said traffic in the area is already unsafe and the building would not only be a misplaced eyesore in the rural area but it would decrease their property values.

Ultimately, the commissioners decided the puzzle pieces didn't fit and the recommendation for rejection will be passed onto the Sheridan County Commissioners at their May 7 meeting.

The next hot topic on Thursday night was a proposed rezone of a significant portion of land, currently zoned urban residential, to an agricultural designation. The rezone would amend the official zoning map, and many of the 18 affected adjacent landowners said it would negatively affect their property values, while some said it would have a positive impact on those values.

Cynthia Hoover, who lives and works 55 acres of land adjacent to the proposed rezone area, land that was passed onto her by her parents, said that decision should be in the hands of the individual landowners - and not a result of what she said would be an arbitrary board decision.

Hoover also said rezoning this land just wouldn't make any sense.

During discussion and after the public comment period, the commissioners agreed that this was an issue of private rights versus public rights.

Some in support of the rezone said across the country, roughly 1 million acres of agricultural land is being replaced by development each year, and that this would ensure developments would not replace ripe farm land. Commissioner Jeremy Smith said setting aside land for ag both in Sheridan County and across the country could ensure a stable food supply as the nation's population increases.

Unanimously, the planing and zoning commissioners recommended the Sheridan County Commissioners not approve the rezone request. The county commissioners will be formally presented the rejection at their meeting on April 16.

Sheridan Motor
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