Park County’s Commissioners made the correct decision last week by voting to table a vote on the preliminary plat review for a new residential subdivision between Cody and Powell.

The Buck Creek Estates Major Subdivision has planned 23 residential lots in the rural area between the two towns.

Heading the list of concerns for the commissioners was whether the area’s groundwater could support 23 new wells.

While the demand for building lots and subdivisions has surged during the past year, we applaud the commissioners in their decision not to jump to a hasty conclusion.

We, along with many Wyoming residents, believe in private property rights. But there are limits to those rights and for good reason.

While an individual should have rights to what he can do on his own property, that landowner should also be protected from what a neighboring landowner might do to devalue all properties in the area.

County zoning regulations are already in place, although they may not be keeping up with the demand of this time. Subdivisions have covenants to protect all property owners about and potential buyers should prepare themselves about what rules are in place before they buy.

Those rules are there to protect all of those who purchase land in that subdivision.

The county demands a hydrogeological study to determine if the planned subdivision has enough groundwater to support 23 homes.

With the price of residential lots in Park County, that is a great protection for purchasers.

Commissioner Chair Lee Livingston perhaps summed the decision up best: “I understand private property rights, but we’re also charged with making decisions to better the future of our county.”

The future of the county and the protection of its residents should always be the primary goal of the county government.

(1) comment

Schelly Jordan

As a Cody resident I have been following this issue closely and am pleased to see a prominent member of the Fourth Estate to weigh in on this proposed subdivision. 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 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's engineer stated that only 25% of this acreage is "prime". 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".

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