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Controversial high-density zoning ordinance fails on final reading

The ordinance failed 7-3 and needed a supermajority vote in order to pass.

Dr. Jasper Chen, a psychiatrist at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, speaks to the council during their March 13 meeting / Zoom Screenshot.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — After weeks of postponement by the Cheyenne City Council, the fate of an ordinance that would allow local land to be zoned as high-density and support a 195-unit apartment project has been revealed.

During Monday night’s meeting, the ordinance failed 7–3 to pass on third and final reading. Councilmembers Michelle Aldrich and Pete Laybourn voted against the ordinance and Mark Rinne, who was absent from the meeting, was counted as a no vote.

The council recently annexed 10.7 acres of land located west of Ridge Road and south of Storey Boulevard and now needs to assign a corresponding zone designation.


Gateway Constructions previously approached the council with the apartment project and a request to zone the area as NR-3, or high density.

Residents in the surrounding neighborhood adamantly expressed their disapproval at both the project and NR-3 at prior meetings. As a result, councilmembers had postponed final action on the ordinance since January, when it was first brought up.

Typically, the council’s simple majority in favor of the ordinance would have been enough for it to pass Monday night. In this instance, however, a supermajority vote was triggered and eight out of the 10 members of the governing body needed to approve it.


This event occurred because 42.5% of residents living within 140 feet of the annexed area submitted a petition against the NR-3, according to Charles Bloom, director of Planning and Development for Cheyenne.

Under the city’s code, a supermajority vote is triggered if at least 20% of owners living within 20% of the area or living within 140 feet of the area’s boundaries petition against the zoning.

The residents are concerned that the project would bring more traffic into their single-family neighborhoods, overwhelm nearby schools and businesses, add to existing water drainage issues and lower the property values of their homes.


They have requested that the council instead approve a medium-density, or MR, classification, matching that of the surrounding area and allowing for single-family homes, duplexes and smaller apartment units to be built.

While their pleas returned during Monday’s meeting, new community members stepped forward to express their approval for the project and N-3 zoning.

Sam Weinstein said he supports the project as both a Cheyenne resident and as VP of the Southeast Wyoming Builders Association.


The construction of a high-density apartment complex will provide locals with jobs and create modern homes for new residents, Weinstein said during the meeting.

“This project is a necessity,” he said.” This new development will create jobs for local buisness and local workforce … and much needed housing for our population.”

Like Weinstein, Dr. Jasper Chen, a psychiatrist at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, believes many people would benefit from having the complex.


Chen said many of his colleagues commute to work every day because of limited housing options in the city.

“Many of my colleagues unfortunately have to commute from Fort Collins every single day because those types of community that are being proposed for development do not exist in Cheyenne,” he said during the meeting. “There aren’t any opportunities for developers and new developers like myself to do some good for the community, and we need to have housing options for everyone.”

In response to the housing comments, residents living near the annexed area said they are not against new housing developments; what they don’t approve of is a large apartment complex that would change the dynamic of the existing community.


Rebecca Murchie, who spoke against the project at previous meetings, said the folks in favor of NR-3 don’t live in the surrounding area. They wouldn’t understand the potential impact the project would have on current residents, she said.

“We’re not saying, ‘Not in our backyard,'” Murchie said during the meeting. “We’re embracing development. We just need to look at the kind of development and make it fit with the rest of that community.”

Cheyenne resident Steven Askey, who lives near the annexed area, said he is opposed to a “three-story monstrosity” that would be “totally out of place with the existing neighborhood.”


He urged councilmembers to deeply consider the MR zoning requested by the nearby residents.

“The people are pretty universal: … We simply just don’t want a high-density development,” he said during the meeting. “We would just ask that you listen to the people and the people that voted and put you guys into office.”

After the comments, Councilmember Bryan Cook moved to amend the ordinance and change the NR-3 classification to MR.


City Planner Seth Lloyd said under the MR zone, Gateway Constructions would have to appeal to the Board of Adjustments for conditional use approval in order to build the complex. The board, which is an appointed body of the city responsible for appeals and quasi-judicial decisions under the zoning regulations, would make the final decision on whether to allow the project.

Jason Stephen, owner of Gateway Constructions, said NR-3 is the most compatible zone for the project. Accepting an MR and having the board decide what is best for the community defeats the purpose of the City Council, Stephen said during the meeting.

“It puts the power in your hand to make the decision for the community as a whole,” he said. “You’re not leaving it up to board of adjustment to do the job that needs done.”


With the amendment failing, councilmembers expressed their final thoughts on the NR-3 ordinance before taking the vote.

Councilmember Jeff White said he is for the NR-3 and appreciates the engagement of both the residents and the developers in the ordinance approval process.

He acknowledged that Cheyenne has a “housing shortage” and needs 5,000 more housing units to meet current demands. With Cheyenne being “landlocked” and unable to develop apartment complexes outside of the city, the council has no choice but to use annexed land.


“I don’t know how we’re going solve one of the major obstacles [lack of housing] … without some of these types of development,” White said during the meeting. “I don’t see how we can make a dent.”

Councilmember Pete Laybourn, who is against the NR-3, said the council should prioritize the demands of existing residents over the needs of potential ones.

“The people that live here now, their property, they’re the primary consideration,” he said during the meeting. “Not speculative concepts of individuals who might move here.”