Buck Creek Estates

Brian Shumard said he did his research and then took all the necessary legal steps in order to have his 23-lot subdivision between Cody and Powell approved by Park County.

“For me to have checked every one of those boxes, every one of those boxes are checked right now, now they’re drawing it out?” he questioned.

Shumard’s Buck Creek Estates major subdivision project will go back before the Park County commissioners at their meeting Sept. 20 for the fourth time in preliminary plat review.

The biggest criticism of the project by the public is that the quality and quantity of water in the project area would not be adequate enough to support 23 wells. Spencer George, a neighboring dairy farmer who has opposed the project, also cited possible resistance to future projects he would like to do on his property as another concern. If George desired to put a feedlot on his property it would require a special use permit, which would engage public input through the application process.

“But he’s there fighting me,” Shumard said.

The project has received massive pushback from those advocating for agricultural interests. Some of these people are outspoken, staunchly conservative members of the Republican party such as Carol Armstrong and Tim Lasseter, who argued the county needs to preserve its remaining agricultural land.

“I see a lot of these people battling against him that have talked property rights forever,” Shumard’s business partner and local real estate agent Donny Anderson said, “and now they’re saying he can’t do what he wants to do on his land.”

Armstrong said one person’s private property rights should not come at the expense of another’s.

“One man’s gain shouldn’t mean another man’s loss,” she said.

At their last meeting on Aug. 17, the commissioners voted to table making a decision on the project until Shumard could show results from a hydrological study proving wells would not overtax the water. He said he’ll show them results from a 1993 hydrological study performed on the land where the subdivision will be built. In addition to this study, Shumard will also drill two test wells himself.

“As long as it doesn’t hurt me dearly, I’m willing to do what I need to do to make them comfortable, as long as it’s within my rights,” he said.

Park County Commissioner Dossie Overfield said she would still not guarantee approval even if these tests show adequate results.

Although the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality already approved the project, its staff never made a visit to inspect the land.

Only a small portion of George’s land touches Shumard’s property, and Shumard said there are no farms downstream on Buck Creek from his proposed project.

The development will not be pulling water from the nearby Shoshone River.

“I’m not taking water sources from anybody else, it’s my water,” Shumard said.

Land use

Commissioner Lloyd Thiel, who has voiced trepidation about the project since it was brought forward, voted against the water study altogether, finding the subdivision flawed for its effects on agriculture.

“His job is to take the Park County planning and zoning (rules) and make sure everyone is fulfilling that,” Shumard said. “His job is not to say, ‘I’m against it.’”

Park County’s Land Use Plan is a document littered with vague rules and descriptions. There are rules in the plan that both support and oppose the Buck Creek Estates, but Shumard said a precedent has been set by numerous subdivisions getting approved in the past, giving him security to pursue his project.

“If I’ve watched … all of these guys when they’re breaking down ag-land get turned down, or all these subdivisions going in right now and getting turned down because they’re ag (zoned), I would have never brought it to do this,” he said.

The Land Use Plan will be updated in the coming year and the commissioners will be soliciting assistance from area committees to help to do so.

“Once that’s passed, that’s when precedents can be set,” Shumard said. “Precedents can’t be set after 22 years, two people complain, and two subdivisions.”

Shumard said the George family has done two simple subdivisions and “countless” family exemption land splits of their own, but these created smaller lots than what are proposed for Buck Creek.

Shumard credits the recent real estate boom as being a critical factor to Cody braving the COVID storm, lining the pockets of those in industries connected and many more indirectly connected to home development.

“The trickle down effect from real estate has been a savior,” he said.

Farming has been on a slow decline nationally for many years and as fewer and fewer generations of people decide to pursue it for a livelihood, more and more farmland inevitably gets sold off.

“I hate subdivisions,” said Park County Republican Party Chairman Martin Kimmet. “But for those farmers, at the end of the day, that’s their retirement.”

In Shumard’s opinion there’s plenty of unused farmland left in the county and he said just because the roughly 4-8-acre lots won’t be able to support traditional ranching and farming doesn’t mean they should be discounted for agricultural potential, with there still being a possibility for micro and hobby farming and ranching.

Many of these small-scale producers support local farmers markets. One of the biggest local producers, Shoshone River Farms, operates on 3.5 acres and utilizes multiple high tunnel hoop houses to grow produce.

“You don’t have to have 200 head of cows and 500 acres to be considered a farmer,” he said.

Pushback

Shumard sees the commissioners’ demands as an attempt to prolong the application process and increase his costs. He said these elevated costs will then be passed on to the buyers. The county will pay no costs associated with the project as the subdivision will have a privately built road that connects to the Powell Highway.

Commissioner Lee Livingston expressed concern about a major subdivision in a rural area being harder to reach for emergency responders.

Shumard said growth along the entire Powell Highway corridor is inevitable, so it will serve the county’s interest to build where the pre-existing utilities are and in a consistent pattern rather than a patchwork of locations where agriculture is deemed not possible. Anderson said this type of growth actually makes it easier on emergency services.

“If it’s going to happen, why are we fighting it?” Shumard said.

Overfield did not agree with this logic.

“The county is at a pivotal point right now for how we decide we want to grow,” she said. “We need to take time to figure out how to do so.”

If the project is denied, Anderson said he would like to see neighbors that opposed the project place deed restrictions on their properties requiring agricultural use only going forward.

Shumard said he will pursue legal avenues if denial occurs.

“In the end, my property rights will win out,” he said.

(Zac Taylor contributed to this report)

(7) comments

Merill Scheid

There's only a couple of good ole' boy developers around here that get the no questions asked/automatic green light around here and Mr. Shumard isn't one of them. The Good Ole' Boy network is alive and well here in Park County....same as it ever was

Pete Demoney

I'm a "Constitutional Conservative" until other conservatives don't do what I want. Oh yeah, it's okay for me to move in from Missouri and tell others how to live their lives but don't let people from California do so! I'm all for my property rights but not yours. Lasseter sounds like a big government liberal.

Calvin Smithhurst

Wow, this property has been on the market for 2 years and the big question is, why didn't George Farms buy it? Or, is there some plan to nix this deal and then swoop in and purchase it on the cheap?

Schelly Jordan

Please note, I posted this to an op-ed by Mr. J.T. Malmberg of the Cody Enterprise last week when he supported the decision by the Commissioners to postpone a decision on Buck Creek last week. I have done a couple of edits and added a fact or 2. My points are even more relevant to the discussions in Mr. Wolfson's latest article on this issue. I respectfully ask that it be added to this most recent discussion. Thank you, SJ

Mr. Malmberg brought up a critical issue that faces the American West and that is the diminishing supply of water. I know nothing about aquifers, groundwater, etc. but I do know that we are now in a serious and prolonged drought period. Even the most apolitical climatologists and water specialists agree that we can no longer do business-as-usual. What was done in the last century to dam the Colorado River, the Tuolumne River helped build the mega metropolitan areas of Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and San Francisco to name a few. Those cities could not exist without Lake Powell (Glen Canyon Dam), Lake Meade (Hoover Dam) or the Hetch Hetchy Lake (Hetch Hetchy Dam) Same situation here, Cody and Powell would not exist without the Buffalo Bill Reservoir for irrigation and drinking water. Ol' Buffalo Bill hisself knew that. The additional common denominator is that all these lakes and millions of people depend on snowmelt to replenish the water. Overall snowpack throughout the West is decreasing as the weather becomes warmer and drier...for whatever reason, its just a reality. The state of Wyoming is part of the Colorado River Basin Compact which means Wyoming water is contributed to states and reservoirs in states south of us. Last month Gov. Gordon formed a working group to protect Wyoming water rights in the face of "...the West facing unprecedented drought conditions and Wyoming must be prepared to address the potential impacts of water shortages" (governor.wyo.org July 16,2021).

So what does this have to do with Mr. Shumard's proposed California-style ranchette community? Aquifers (ground water) are replenished by precipitation and guess what, we ain't getting nearly the precipitation we received in past years (like when Mr. Shumard' 1993 water report was done) so we are at a net loss of water resources. The Wyoming State Geological Survey says that "Wyoming's semi-arid basins, characterized by low precipitation, high evaporation and and reduced soil permeability, generally provide much less recharge (water) to its aquifers" (wsgs.wyo.gov). So, start adding additional wells tapping that water and the water level drops even faster. What about the agricultural/ranching users of groundwater? Are they going to have to dig deeper wells (Mr. Shumard's engineer's answer to water shortage) which just accelerates the net loss of groundwater. How big is the aquifer and how many people will be impacted by more and more wells being drilled for residential construction? Mr. Shumard cited a 1993 water study to support water quantity. Really? A lot has happened since then like, ah, thousands of more people and hundreds of more homes in Park County not to mention a serious drought facing us with no end in sight.

Mr. Shumard's engineer stated that only 25% of this acreage is "prime" agricultural.. What do local farmers & ranchers say to that estimation? America has lost 11 million acres to development in the last 20 years (American Farmland Trust,2021). More development means a loss of Cody/Powell's agricultural and ranching heritage. People from all over the country but primarily from both coasts. are fleeing to smaller towns in the West. It's a developer's and real estate agent's dream but at what cost? Look at Jackson and Teton County, holding the dubious distinction of being the most economically unequal place to live in America (Eco Policy Institute, 2019). Is that our future? Bozeman, MT has seen unprecedented inflationary growth, development and buying frenzy...so much so there's an HGTV show called "Living Big Sky" featuring out-of-town folks looking to buy a house in the area.

Regarding the developer, Mr. Shumard, I would reference an older Enterprise article:

https://www.codyenterprise.com/news/local/article_9951fe32-c23e-11e6-9743-8bc75cde7720.html

This might raise the question as to how concerned Mr. Shumard might be regarding the impact of his development on our community, particularly when a proposed cell tower on an earlier subdivision of his or a new 120+ acre subdivision would provide him with substantial financial gain.

Cody and Park County are at a tipping point in our future. In 1900, Buffalo Bill promoted "grow Cody, grow Cody" and he did. Now times have changed and unregulated, unsustainable growth threatens to ruin what Bill Cody created. Maybe a new billboard should read "Keep Cody as Cody". Thank you.

Jim Guelde

Happy to be in Meeteetse… far from the madding crowds of Cody and Powell.

Phil James

This has gotten silly. Most of the opposition are carpetbaggers who've moved to this area, only to dictate to others what they can and can't do. One of these, a Missouri transplant perennial school board candidate who always gets thumped in the elections, is a renter within the city limits and doesn't even live in the County, but yet is trying to thwart the business plans of another. Again, it's gotten silly

(Edited by staff.)

Mitch Asay

Hey Brian. Your from California right Reminder of the billboard don't California Cody. You tried that with Whitlock Motors , and how did that turn out for you all I see is another bucket lies and empty promises

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