Although most neighbors supported the idea, a woman’s plans to start a landscape and greenhouse business east of Cody have been blocked by her subdivision’s covenants, Park County’s …
Although most neighbors supported the idea, a woman’s plans to start a landscape and greenhouse business east of Cody have been blocked by her subdivision’s covenants, Park County’s zoning regulations and commissioners.
Kendra Morris, the owner of Pollen Landscapes, hoped to build multiple greenhouses and a pole barn on a vacant 3.72-acre parcel that lies just south of U.S. Highway 14/16/20. The problem is the proposal would add more square feet of commercial space than is allowed in the residential area.
Morris asked county commissioners to grant her an exception to the zoning rules — known as a variance — but they rejected the request on a 3-2 vote last month.
“I believe there’s other commercial properties in the Cody area where this [project] could happen,” Commissioner Lloyd Thiel said of Morris’ plans. He joined with commissioners Jake Fulkerson and Dossie Overfield in voting to deny Morris’ request on May 21.
“I’m really torn on this one, because I truly support economic development, small business, all that,” said Thiel. “But it is within a very strict residential subdivision with [covenants].”
The 3.72 acre parcel of land lies within the Country Club Ranchettes Subdivision, where the covenants prohibit commercial businesses.
Two leaders of the homeowners’ association, Bob Darling and Richard Lasko, told commissioners there was widespread support for Morris’ plans — and that the landowners are thinking about relaxing the subdivision’s rules.
“What they [Morris and her husband Dusty] have in mind … it actually doesn’t disturb anybody in that neighborhood as far as traffic concerns,” said Darling, noting the greenhouse would be accessed directly from the highway. “And I feel that what they have in mind for that piece of property is a definite improvement of the property and an asset to the neighborhood.”
The neighbor to the east of the proposed lot is also supportive, Morris said, while the lots to the west and south are vacant. She lives in the subdivision, too, on a different lot, and said she would build privacy fences and take other steps to prevent impacts to neighbors.
“I think their word is gold on that,” Lasko said, citing his experiences with the Morrises.
Still, the support wasn’t unanimous: one subdivision resident, Ron Reel, wrote a letter asking commissioners to deny Pollen Landscapes’ request. He said the change in the use of the land would “only be a detriment” to the covenants.
The conflict between the proposal and the subdivision’s covenants bothered Thiel. While the county does not enforce covenants — which are private agreements between landowners — “I don’t think we should step on them,” he said.
Thiel said he’d support the proposal “100 percent” if the subdivision residents amended the covenants.
But Commissioner Joe Tilden disagreed with that reasoning.
“If you vote against this approval of the variance, you’re in essence voting to enforce covenants,” Tilden cautioned the board; he and Commissioner Lee Livingston voted to grant Morris a variance.
However, in casting the tie-breaking vote against the proposal, Commission Chairman Fulkerson said his opinion had “nothing” to do with the covenants.
Fulkerson said the request simply didn’t meet the criteria for variance — specifically saying there were no special circumstances or conditions that necessitated an exception to the rules.
Major commercial businesses — that is, those with more than 5,000 square feet of buildings or more than an acre of development — are not allowed under the area’s rural residential 2-acre zoning.
Morris said she didn’t really like the “major” label. She noted a nearby portable toilet sanitation service (Iverson Sanitation) and auto and RV repair business (M&P Repair) are classified as a minor commercial business.
“I feel like I would be smaller than the business across the street,” Morris said.
However, in looking over the size and scope of Pollen Landscapes’ plans, Fulkerson responded that “those are some pretty significant structures.”
Morris proposed building a 30 by 96 foot greenhouse (2,880 square feet) and a 1,600 square foot pole barn in Pollen Landscapes’ first year, then adding three 20 by 70 foot greenhouses (totaling 4,200 square feet) the following year.
While not wanting to call the Country Club Ranchettes location her “last resort,” Morris said it was the “ideal choice.” Morris said other sites she’s looked at were not cost-effective.
Before voting to deny the variance, Thiel told Morris he was sorry, saying he wanted her to succeed, but felt the commission shouldn’t “[step] on the toes of the covenants.”