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(COMMENTARY) The Mayor’s Minute from Mayor Patrick Collins (3/29/24)

Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins (City of Cheyenne)

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. — I have been tracking the pickleball phenomenon for a while now. I hit the ball for a few minutes when we opened the new pickleball courts in Lions Park this past summer. It made me want to give the game a go. The new Beast recreation building we purchased a couple of months ago has 10 indoor pickleball courts and Dr. Rinne and I got to really play for the first time. I had a blast even though it took a bit for us to get to the level where we could sustain points. The folks playing at the Beast were so nice to help teach the finer points of the game. The Beast is a great venue on a cold morning to get some indoor exercise and hang out with a great group of people. I thought I was in good shape, but the new motions left me a bit sore in the legs. Can’t wait to go again.

I received a surprise phone call from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Monday. The Secretary was scheduled for a tour of the I-80/I-25 intersection and the new areas in east Cheyenne where federal funding is making the projects financially viable. I shared our thanks for the funding and my hopes that the Transportation Department can help find a way to finance the needed interstate intersection upgrade. It was fun to talk to someone who has served as a mayor and understands the challenges of funding the infrastructure needs of a growing city. Unfortunately, the bridge collapse caused the postponement of his trip. Prayers for the victims of the collapse; it is so tragic.

The Industrial Siting Council was created to help make permitting decision for very large projects across the state and to help determine if local governments have a financial need to help cover the unmitigated costs these projects bring to their communities and operations. This week we attended the ISC meeting to discuss the new Cowboy Solar Project that is proposed to be built just south of Cheyenne. After much testimony and debate, the project was granted a permit to build by the Council. They also approved payments to Pine Bluffs, Laramie County, Fire District 1, and Cheyenne. This over billion-dollar solar project will bring hundreds of employees to our area for around 30 months. We were awarded $3.2 million that we will use to help cover the additional unmitigated expenses during the construction phase. Cowboy Solar will bring over 700 megawatts of solar power that will help fuel the six data center campuses we will have under construction in the near future.

I had lunch with a local businessman who has also built affordable housing in our community. Mark has retired from the day-to-day business life and is now looking to develop 40 acres of land into workforce housing. Amen! It is exactly what we need to happen. It is fun to hear about plans that I know will make a difference in so many lives. I am reading the current WCDA statewide housing study and the numbers are very sobering. I guess it is the old story of how to eat an elephant: one bite — or one development — at a time. Thanks, Mark.

I missed a meeting with another developer who is coming to Cheyenne and has selected two sites to build multifamily apartment buildings. The recent decision to allow for smaller apartment sizes and a parking requirement reduction has them excited to build one-bedroom apartments that surveys say we really need. One project is slated for the West Edge, where we are working so hard to redevelop. Getting folks to live downtown is one of the things we need to transform the business environment.

It is funny how small a place Wyoming is and how relationships made across the state can lead to exciting opportunities. One of our local engineers is on a statewide board working to support habitat for bighorn sheep. Another board member from Sheridan starts working with a California company and the next thing you know I am in a meeting with a large group of people who are looking to build a very large housing community with more than a thousand potential housing units. One big surprise is they use geothermal energy to help make the development more sustainable. I sat there thinking this is too good to be true, but it is happening. They have made supporting military housing as a mainstay of their business plan and we are a perfect place for their next investment. I need to study the geothermal energy concept as I don’t really understand how it works. Stay tuned!

Ansley Moux is a local architect who has been very active in advocating for changes to our housing and development regulations for a while now. It is nice to get a professional opinion. We share a desire to see a diversity of housing options and on Wednesday she introduced me to Allen Gordon, who has made his living building housing in a factory setting. It was very interesting to see how he has taken the Henry Ford factory concept and used it to build housing. He builds both single-family homes and apartment buildings in a modular construction facility. I think this could be one solution to the recent housing studies that show Wyoming needs up to 38,000 housing units by the year 2030. Wow!

The Southeast Wyoming Builders Association held its member meeting this week and I joined Commissioner Malm and Council President Esquibel on a panel to discuss city and county issues that could affect the building community. It is fun to get a bit of teasing from the commissioner and engage with the folks building our community. It was nice to be able to brag a bit about all the accomplishments our city council has made in changing our regulations to make building a diversity of housing easier. I am proud of them and can’t wait to see some of the new opportunities come to fruition.

We had a new position created in the mayor’s office at the end of last year. The city council approved the hiring of a project manager to help shepherd the numerous projects we always have in process. Paul Bellotti has started in the new position and it is exciting to have his expertise available to ensure we get our projects done in a timely manner and most importantly on budget.

Judy and I wish you all a happy and blessed Easter weekend.


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