Albany County Commissioners Consider 5,528 Acre Land Offer
The Albany County Commissioners will be accepting public comment on an offer made to the county to purchase 5,528.85 acres of land east of Laramie for $14 million for public use.
The purchase and sale agreement of the Pilot Hill Parcels - which extends east behind Ivinson Memorial Hospital up to the Laramie Range- was presented to the commissioners by Phil Nicholas, attorney for the Samuelson family who owns the ranch, during the commissioners meeting today. Nicholas said the family had been considering selling the Pilot Peak parcels of the Warren Ranch and had decided to sell it to the county.
“The family is not worried about selling the land, they have plenty of buyers,” Nicholas said. “They can sell it to a private developer, but the community aspect will be lost.”
Nicholas said the family decided to offer the land to the county because the county was most able to represent all of the stakeholders – The University of Wyoming, the City of Laramie as well as the county.
Nicholas outlined the conditions that would apply to the land if the county were to buy it. He said the family included language in the sale agreement to include well rights to UW for the production of water and to pump and move the water from the area – primarily for use for irrigation. The sale agreement also ensures access provided to UW for public radio towers on pilot hill.
The conditions also mandated that the land remain a single parcel and not be developed for 50 years.
Nichols said the reason for this was to give the community time to begin using the area as public recreational land with the hopes that it would remain public.
The commissioners have 30 days from today to sign the agreement and put a $100 deposit down. They have 360 days from when the agreement is signed to complete the purchase.
Commissioner Heber Richardson said the commissioners would like to take the full 30 day period in order to collect public comment before making a decision.
“It’s going to take all of us,” Heber said. “It’s going to be a concerted community effort. I never thought I would see an opportunity like this in my lifetime.”
Many Laramie residents voiced support for the purchase agreement. Melanie Arnett, Data Specialist for the UW Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, urged the commissioners to not be put off by the price of the land.
“Is it more important to have $14 million or to have this piece of land?” Arnett said.
UW President Laurie Nichols said that the university appreciated the Samuelson family keeping the university in mind when creating their purchase agreement and providing well rights.
“The opportunity for us to have irrigation water for the university I think is so critical,” Nichols said. “Currently we are on city water. Having different options for our irrigation is critical and I am very thankful to the landowners for thinking of us,” Nichols said.
Other community members were not so pleased with the agreement. Susan Adeler, former employee in the Albany County Planning Office, said she was one of 14 employees laid off earlier this year. Adeler said she doesn’t think the county should buy the land, since it laid off employees to save money.
“Why is the county considering purchasing this land if it has declared a financial crisis?” Adeler asked. “What services will be eliminated to afford this?”
Adeler said she thinks the county should hold a referendum to let residents decide if they want the purchase to be made.
Commissioner Tim Chestnut acknowledged that the county is experiencing financial difficulties and layoffs. He said the money for this purchase would not come from the general fund, but from other sources, such as donations and grants.
Richardson agreed and reiterated that the money would not come from the general fund.
“The general fund if for the statutorily mandated functions of the community, “Richardson said. “This is a community project that happens outside of any existing county funds.”
Chesnut said the commissioners’ next meeting in August will include a public hearing on the purchase and sale agreement. In the meantime, Chesnut said, the commissioners will set up a website to collect comments on the purchase.