SHERIDAN — On Monday, Sheridan City Council formed a committee to continue the city’s long-standing discussion on open spaces in subdivisions.

The discussion comes nearly a year after the approval of the Hidden Bridge subdivision off Mydland Road, according to Community Development Director Wade Sanner. One of several key objections to the subdivision at the time was how little open space was included in the development.

According to previous reporting, 10% usable open space for a development is required in the city’s R-2 residential zone. The Hidden Bridge plat did not meet that requirement, as it only had 7% usable open space.

The open space discussion for Hidden Bridge was eventually considered a moot point following the discovery of a 2013 document defining how open space should be developed in the wider Cloud Peak Ranch development. The discussion still raised interesting questions, Sanner said, and those are what the committee will discuss.

What does the council want future development to look like? Should open space be required in subdivisions at all? What does it mean to be usable open space? Is it a developed park or simply preserved natural habitat?

The committee, comprising Councilors Jacob Martin, Shawn Day and Kristen Jennings, will also discuss the use of the fee-in-lieu process in which developers pay the city for a loss of open space when developing. Those dollars are then used by the city for the development of open space and park land elsewhere in the city limits.

Currently, the fee-in-lieu process is rarely used by the city, Sanner said, but could be expanded if recommended by council.

Another important question facing the council is whether they are willing to sacrifice open space in pursuit of other goals, namely attainable housing, which city councilors have frequently cited as a key priority.

The open space requirement slows the development process and often increases the cost for developers, according to Sanner, which can put it at odds with developing attainable housing.

For that reason, Councilor Clint Beaver recommended removing open space requirements entirely from city code.

“Open space requirements increase the cost of housing, period,” Beaver said. “…When we’re 

talking about what requirements the city puts in the way of affordable housing, open space would be one of those requirements. I will advocate for the repeal of all our open space requirements. I think they’re counterproductive.”

Martin said he understood Beaver’s reasoning but was concerned about removing open space requirements entirely.

“I see what he says about having attainable housing, but… at what cost?” Martin asked.

The committee will review the issue and eventually provide recommendations to the city council. No timeline has been set at this time.

In other Sheridan City Council news:

  • City engineer Hanns Mercer is recommending a $341,140 award to Century Companies, Inc. of Lewistown, Montana, for the city’s Gateway Park bridge project.

The project involves the creation of a pedestrian bridge within the Gateway Park near the North Sheridan Interchange with Interstate 90.

The purpose of the bridge, according to Mercer, is to connect existing concrete pathways on the west side of Goose Creek with dirt pathways on the east side of the creek.

The city received three bids for the project, all of which were in line with the engineer’s estimate of $347,707, Mercer said. Century Companies was the lowest qualified bidder while L.JS Concrete and Excavating of Sheridan and S&S Builders of Gillette also bid the project.

The project will be funded entirely through general purpose excise tax dollars, Mercer said.

The city council will consider the award during its Sept. 20 meeting.

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