September Joint Corporations Report
By: Pete Obermueller, WCCA Executive Director
The legislature's Joint Corporations committee met September 18 and 19 in Lander. In contrast to many Corporations committee meetings, there was only one topic of prime importance to counties on the agenda: a discussion of municipal jurisdiction outside of city limits.
The committee had in front of it a draft bill, linked here, that reduces city authority in 3 ways. First, it requires county approval on city activities within the 5 mile ring around the city dealing with urban blight. Second, it removes the requirement for city approval of plat developments or subdivisions within the one mile ring as long as the area is subject to regulation from a county planning and zoning commission. My recent inquiry returned the fact that all 23 counties have an officially appointed planning and zoning commission, which essentially means that the joint approval in the 1 mile will go away everywhere. Third, the bill ends all city ordinances that apply within the 1/2 mile ring by 2019, and then allows for city ordinances to apply in the 1/2 mile ring only by affirmative approval by the Board of County Commissioners.
This bill was introduced in the 2017 session, but died in the Senate on a 16 - 14 vote. The issue was then placed on the interim agenda, with instructions to WAM and WCCA from the Corporations Committee to attempt to reach agreement on possible alternative legislation dealing with extraterritorial jurisdiction. We achieved agreement with WAM on the 5 mile ring and the 1/2 mile ordinance ring, but could not come to agreement on the size of the 1 mile ring or the necessity of joint approval in that ring.
With that in mind we asked the committee to forward the bill described above to maintain a legislative vehicle, and we will continue to talk about a possible path forward with WAM. That was the nature of my testimony. WAM's testimony focused on the importance of planning for growth in the cities, and ensuring that costs of annexation are not unduly borne by the citizens of the city.
Sen. Case: What is the status of your efforts to come to agreement?
WCCA: Explained what I wrote above and: Our guiding principle in these negotiations was to ensure that everyone, no matter where they live in Wyoming have the ability to petition someone they voted for regarding regulations they are living under.
Rep. Zwonitzer: Please explain how many counties have a comprehensive plan?
WCCA: There are three tiers. The statute requires that all counties have a land use plan, but it is not prescriptive on how it looks. It could be very loose. However, that first tier is moot because the statute also allows counties to appoint an official planning and zoning commission, and all 23 counties have done so. The third tier is that counties with a commission then have the right to regulate land use through zoning. Not all counties have done that. The important thing is that every county has the people and the structures in place to adequately plan. Further, Commissioners represent both the people who live in the county AND the people who live in the city, but the reverse is not true.
Rep. Sweeney: Some special districts have asked that we add them as an approving governing body for development purposes. Or at least notification requirements. Is there a way we can do that?
WCCA: When you consider that there are 700 special districts and growing in Wyoming, the issue of adequate communication is always a challenge. I imagine we can do better and I'm open to suggestions on notification. However, I think that Commissioners might balk at adding a 3rd approving body to development.
WAM: As it relates to notification, all of these developments must be approved in an official open meeting that have notification requirements. Anyone who objects or has information relevant to the development already has the opportunity to be involved.
Following this discussion, the committee passed the draft bill above by a vote of 9 - 5. That bill will be a committee bill at the legislative session in 2018. Additionally, Rep. Lindholm moved that a separate bill be drafted for discussion at their next meeting that simply removes all extraterritorial jurisdiction in all cases. That bill will be taken up in November.