More than 120 people attended a public meeting April 10, but some in the crowd appeared not to be interested in providing constructive comments on a proposed update to the master plan.
“It’s a great evening when there’s this level of interest shown for our city,” Mayor Nancy Tia Brown said, commending the turnout at the Cody Club Room compared to previous master plan meetings.
But her concluding statement foreshadowed what was to come from the large crowd.
“I can assure you the master plan has nothing to do with Agenda 21,” she said.
After a brief explanation of the components of the plan, City Planner Todd Stowell said attendees should take the opportunity to speak informally with present council members and planning staff and write down their comments before leaving.
On round tables set up in the room were three oversized papers, showing the “future land use” or zoning map, a proposed update to the streets master plan, and a map of biking and walking pathways and trails.
“The materials provided for us to review were terrific given that it’s hard to read the stuff on the computer,” Linda Raynolds of Cody later told Stowell. “I now have a much better idea of some aspects of the plan.”
Around one table, a group of residents from Ina Avenue gathered, voicing comments that reaffirmed their opposition to opening the street.
“It’s not like we think the sky is falling,” Troy Brown of Cody said. “The street was open at one time and people would speed through there. It wasn’t safe.”
In another corner of the room, residents from a neighborhood below the hospital cornered councilman Donny Anderson to point out that the future land-use map had improperly zoned their neighborhood as commercial.
Resident Jojean Dehoney waited to speak with council members about the future of West Avenue near Cody Middle School and Cougar Avenue.
“I’m concerned about the type of buildings that will be allowed in the area,” she said, explaining she owns five acres on the street. “I want it to be an open, more quiet space and comfortable – like it is now.”
“I was disappointed to see no crosswalks on Big Horn Avenue,” resident Tracy Clark added. “We need people to slow down and relax once they get to Cody.”
As council members mingled with the crowd, it became apparent that some attendees had other plans.
Vince Vanata of Cody circled the room asking for signatures on a petition to repeal Senate File 104, commonly known as the “Hill Bill,” which redefined the duties of the state superintendant of public instruction (currently Cindy Hill).
Former state Senate candidate and tea party member Bob Berry claimed the council was attempting to “shut up the opposition by playing the audience against itself” before a question-and-answer session occurred.
He and other tea party members in attendance who came from as far as Powell, said they were concerned about connections to “Agenda 21” – a nonbinding United Nations action plan adopted in 1992 to encourage sustainable development.
While “Agenda 21” has no doubt influenced planning trends throughout the world since its adoption, Berry said the suggested policies will overtime diminish personal property rights.
This idea became increasingly popular in 2012 after a novel of the same name was published by Glenn Beck.
On his website, he advises readers to watch for connections to Agenda 21 by searching city council agendas for key words such as “comprehensive planning,” “sustainability,” “grants,” “environment,” or “vision.”
Once the Q&A session started, Stowell was questioned about these words, specifically how sustainability and alternative energy fit into the plan.
“The plan reflects a whole wide range of ideas,” Stowell replied. “Alternative energy would not be the city’s responsibility, but we think the plan should talk about those opportunities for private businesses.”
The city also was questioned about where the money for the plan came from, where the consultants on the plan are located, and if there were any strings attached.
The city paid consultants Logan Simpson Design of Fort Collins, Colo., with a $50,000 planning grant from the Wyoming Business Council which is funded by the federal government, and is required to complete the plan by August, Stowell said.
To this an audience member cried out, “Outside money coming in – that’s Agenda 21.”
Another audience member suggested the council add specific language denouncing policies of Agenda 21 in the introduction of the plan.
Police records show at the conclusion of the meeting, one crowd member from tea party called police and reported verbal harassment.
At City Hall the next morning, planning department staff were fielding complaints and comments from people who attended the meeting but didn’t have a chance to ask questions.
“I was blindsided by the tea party attack that suddenly arose during the Q&A session,” Raynolds said. “It made it impossible for me to ask the questions I had in mind.”
“They came to a meeting for one purpose and tried to change it to another,” councilman Anderson said. “They imported people from Powell and they were not there to enhance the discussion.”
But Park County Republican chairman Larry French of Powell said their presence was not to be critical of the city, but to learn about the process and relieve personal concerns about Agenda 21.
“The mayor was quite specific that the plan was not connected to Agenda 21,” he said. “I don’t think the city of Cody is involved, but the engineering firm might be.
“Agenda 21 is a heinous thing and we need to be careful with it.”
A seven-week comment period on the proposed update to the city of Cody’s master plan ends May 1.
A formal public hearing and adoption process are expected to take place this summer.
To review the plan, visit cityofcody-wy.gov or stop by City Hall or the rec center.
Comments can be submitted to the city planning department at City Hall, by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone, 527-7511.
(Heidi Hansen can be reached at email@example.com.)