Commission hears 3 plans for 1,000 acres

One of three plans to develop the 1,000 acres of county-owned property adjacent to Bear River State Park is shown above during a Uinta County Development Commission meeting. Representatives from Jones & DeMille presented the plan and suggested this scenario over the other two since it saw less population growth. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

EVANSTON — The design plan for the “1,000 acres” of county land adjacent to Bear River State Park was the main discussion at the July 27 meeting of the Uinta County Economic Development Commission. Bart Jensen and Ben Levenger with Jones & DeMille met with the commission remotely to discuss three different design options.

Jensen said they had focused the plans on 200-plus acres along I-80 and close to the “Road to Nowhere” near the park as the priority area because that area can easily access water and sewer services. Jensen said they previously met with the conservation service, law enforcement and environmental agencies.

Part of the 1,000 acres, Jensen explained, is potential wetlands; another section is a restricted building area; and the Bear River drainage area on the map becomes an environmental buffer zone for endangered species. 

Levenger then went over the three primary design plans the company proposed.

“We have come up with three categories for the plans,” Levenger said, “industrial/commercial, retail and residential.”

Design plan No. 1, Levenger said, will consist of industrial and commercial. This plan will include large and small warehouses, each using a quarter-acre of land, averaging 2,000 to 5,000 square-feet each, and possibly big-box warehouses and averaging three employees per acre.

The northern side of the property will be low density for small retail, possibly a strip mall. This scenario could potentially employ 5,500; could provide 1.7 million square feet of retail space, 919,000 square feet of industrial space and a potential population increase of 5,565.

Plan No. 2 includes retail and residential, Levenger said. At the top of the mapped acreage would be mixed-use retail, such as small lifestyle stores mixed in with residential property at 10 units per acre.

It would include a “walk-around” scenario and would be denser. The bottom section of the 200 acres would be zoned for big box retail stores. This design plan could see a potential population increase of 4,000 to 5,000; with a possible addition of 5,197 jobs; 2,180,000 square feet for retail and 1,950,000 square feet for housing.

Plan No. 3 includes “flex space” and residential at the top of the area. The flex space would involve 3,500 to 10,000 square feet and includes small industrial, such as T-shirt production, office space and storage. The residential area would allow eight units per acre at 1,000 square feet each.

The back or lower half of the area would be for warehouse/distribution centers (Costco was one example given) and others with an average of two employees per acre. Plan 3 could see a population increase of 2,500 and industrial space of 3,400,000 square feet. This plan does not see as many added jobs as the other two plans, with only about 1,603 total.

“In comparing the plans,” Levenger said. “The third plan is the most ideal and the most likely as it provides more flexibility, more housing and less of an increase in population. Plan 1 is the most expensive and increases the population the most. Plan 2 also shows a large population increase. Whichever design you decide to use, the area needs to be self-sufficient and not dependent on the rest of the town due to the numbers of people it will bring in. You have a lot of space here and, whatever you do, it will be a dramatic change for the entire community.”

Levenger said the design firm is just providing numbers for the commission to work with and their goal is to eventually meet with the community in person to provide information. The first meeting, Levenger said, should be with stakeholders, follwed by an informational public meeting.

Commission member Todd Jones suggested that Levenger look at placing the residential areas to the south and the industrial areas to the north, nearer Interstate 80, so heavy traffic would not have to go through the residential area to get to industry. They may have to develop separate roads, Jones said.

Chair Dan Wheeler thanked Levenger and Jensen and said they would set up a meeting with stakeholders and coordinate with the firm.

Jon Conrad reported on Key Performance Indicators: Lodging tax was at $19, 980 for April; there were four building permits issued in June; unemployment claims were down to 31.

Jesse Lind reported that oil rigs in operation are slowly climbing; the numbers have risen from 13 to 19.

Gary Welling reported that the work at the Evanston airport was nearly completed. They had found a soft spot they had to fix, so the airport will be closed for another week while that is being repaired.

They are also putting in LED lighting, which doesn’t get very hot, so they need to add a heating element to melt the snow off the lights. The work is being paid for with an $8 million grant from the FAA (Federal Aviation Agency).

Evanston Community Development Director Rocco O’Neill reported that the economic development website had recorded 1,385 users, 1,612 sessions with visitors spending an average of 2 minutes and 20 seconds on the site.

He said July had been the best month yet for the website. The states showing the highest number of users are California, Wyoming, Kansas, Ohio, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, New York, and Arizona. He said over the two years they have had the website, the use continues to grow.

“Recently, we have had eight interests from manufacturers who saw our website,” O’Neill said, “and four active leads this year already … they have visited Evanston and are interested in coming here. Though there are 13 commercial properties listed now, only two are industrial size and are still not big enough. We just don’t have the infrastructure available for those that are interested.”

There was discussion among the commission members and guests concerning infrastructure and the lack of housing. O’Neill said progress is continuing on the facility for Avalon International, a manufacturing company that has committed to coming to Evanston. ISA, the rubber company, however, is having problems finding a contractor and materials for their planned move to Evanston.

Many comments were made and ideas discussed on how to get local stakeholders involved with building commercial and industrial buildings, along with getting investors for the 1,000 acres project once a design is chosen. 

Wyoming Business Council board member Kathy Tomassi said, “Evanston, the economic development commission and Rocco are well-known around the state for being aggressive and doing a good job here.”

Jones asked, “What do we do after we get the study done on the 1,000 acres? ... Then how do we get people to invest in it?”

Commission member Brent Hatch said, “After we get the final design study done, we decide on the plan, then we approach the Wyoming Business Council with a business plan.”

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