County Chair Says Tumbleweed is Within Their Rights to Re-Open
LARAMIE – The chairman of the Albany County Board of Commissioners want to be sure the county has all of its ducks in a row before taking any formal legal action to stop the reconstruction of the Tumbleweed Express Gas Station on East Grand Ave.
In addressing the moratorium established by the county in June, Commission Chair Terri Jones said the moratorium allows the county “time to go back and look at our regulations to see if there are any areas to modify, and gives us a chance to look at things going forward.” She was the Friday morning guest on KOWB Local Laramie Spotlight.
“We cannot change regulations on the spot, and we cannot have regulations be retroactive,” Jones said. “It’s important that, as an entire county, to have our regulations tweaked.”
Jones believes that the gas station technically fits the description of a “grandfathered” business located above the Casper Aquifer.
“We know (Tumbleweed) has been in existence for many, many years. I remember it as a little girl,” said Jones, who was born and raised in the area. “So it’s in going forward, not looking back, and yes, indeed, they are grandfathered in.”
In spite of the fact that the business technically had no regular hours and is questionable to say that it operated as an “active and continuous operation,” as the Albany County zoning resolution states, Jones, says Tumbleweed was “in business.”
“Well, they were there. They were there off and on. I purchased gas from them, or diesel fuel, for years. Yes, sometimes it was a ‘catch as, catch can’ situation, but they were there, and they were open.
“As far as the weights and measure licensing, maybe you didn’t get as much gas as you thought you were buying, or maybe you got more. Yes, it’s not good to not be licensed, but the state obviously didn’t think it was a big deal. That’s their business, not our business,” Jones said.
For a bit of background on the issue, on April 23, Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent filed a request for a court order to block construction work by Tumbleweed Express that Trent initially alleged was a threat to the Casper Aquifer. The gas station has only been open intermittently during the last decade.
But on June 11 at a special county meeting, Trent dropped the request for an injunction after concluding that Albany County’s regulations didn’t provide enough legal backing to stop the gas station’s renovations and sale of gas.
At the June 11 meeting, commissioners formalized a 90-day moratorium on development in the aquifer protection zone. Trent said that the possibility of future expansion plans by Tumbleweed Express was part of the reason for the moratorium.
Sarah Gorin, president of the Albany County Clean Water Advocates, said the moratorium was done after the enforcement action was withdrawn.
“The moratorium specifically does not stop anything. It’s a moratorium in name only. [The county commission] is simultaneously on some revisions to the aquifer protection regulations – again, an action that will not stop Tumbleweed. But they were intended, as we were given to understand, to strengthen the regulations. However, we have not seen any progress on that point,” Gorin said.
Jones disagrees that no progress has been made, but offered a bit of advice regarding the next step.
“The next step is, be patient, be quiet, watch, and listen. I grew up a hunter. So I relate this to a hunt. You have to be ready. You have to be quiet. You have to be patient. You have to put yourself in the right place at the right time. You can’t get in a hurry to do all of those things. So we just have to wait.
“So far, (Tumbleweed) has met every, single thing. We have to wait to see if they continue, or if they break a regulation. But just be calm and wait.
“In a hunting expedition, you’re not loud and noisy. The (Albany County) Clean Water Advocates are being loud and noisy. They are telling the ‘prey’ exactly what their plans are, what they want to do. This particular group has done this many times. It’s not their first go-around. They know how to play the game, and they’ve come out financially well-rewarded in the past,” said Jones.
“I can’t read their minds, so I don’t know that answer. They could have put in new tanks, at no cost. They chose not to. They said they would wait and do that at some point down the road. I almost feel that they were baiting us to sue, because they know they would win. I don’t know exactly what the game is, but I believe there is one. And like I said, they are very well-versed in this game,” Jones said.
“You don’t go bear hunting with a .22, not to say .22’s aren’t deadly. But you want to match what’s in your chamber, with what you’re hunting.
“We have to follow the law. This is a legal issue, not a political issue. And the ACCWA are making it a political issue. That’s not helping the cause at all. It just needs to be methodically worked through, as a legal issue.”