Cheyenne City Council to vote on incentivizing affordable housing, historic preservation

Sep. 19—CHEYENNE — The Cheyenne City Council's Public Services Committee will recommend incentivizing affordable housing, as well as further historic preservation, in Cheyenne's downtown area during Monday night's full council meeting.

If a proposed ordinance passes, property owners could be reimbursed for projects supporting either affordable housing or historic preservation.

The reimbursement would cover the building permit fees of up to $10,000 for multi-family housing and up to $5,000 for single-family projects. Historic preservation projects would also be refunded up to $5,000. The total program would be capped at $200,000 per fiscal year.

Lonnie Olson, a planner with Cheyenne Planning and Development, said he is most excited to make it easier to attain and build affordable housing.

"Creating more housing, in general, is good," Olson said, "and if it's affordable, it helps the people who need it the most."

This proposed project comes in the form of an amendment to a previous program that only reimbursed building permits up to $5,000 for projects within a certain zone.

The program area is roughly bordered by 26th Street to the north and Interstate 80 to the south. The western border includes Missile Drive, Ames Avenue, Snyder Avenue and Partoyan Drive, while the eastern border includes Warren Avenue, House Avenue and Interstate 180.

Since initial implementation in 2018, the Core Development Incentivization Program has supported downtown development projects such as Railspur and CrossFit Frontier.

If the ordinance change is passed next week, projects must meet at least one of the following criteria to qualify for funding:

— Be within the Program Project Area.

— Provide housing that is income-restricted to at least 80% of median income.

— Be a historic structure in a historic district looking only to maintain historic integrity.

But it doesn't restrict buildings from non-historic renovations, either.

"It would be a benefit to the property owner if they want to retain the historic integrity," Olson said, "but it does not force them to."

According to Olson, it's OK for a building's appearance to change a little during these rehabilitation projects, but anything that drastically alters the historic character of the building would not qualify for a break on the permit cost.

Under this ordinance, historic buildings are held to standards developed by the National Park Service.

But for council member Pete Laybourn, meeting these National Park Service criteria is unreasonable.

"It's certainly something that would be, in my opinion, unfairly administered," he said.

Laybourn said he believes there would be a lot of confusion when it comes to understanding and meeting the National Park Service standards.

While he understands Laybourn's concerns, Olson said he has seen programs like this work before, and is optimistic that it will further preserve historic buildings and make housing more affordable.

In a 2-1 vote, Laybourn was the only committee member who opposed the amendment on Tuesday. Council members Tom Segrave and Dr. Mark Rinne voted in favor, while committee Chairman Bryan Cook didn't vote.

High Plains Arboretum

In another historic preservation effort, the committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend that the High Plains Arboretum be designated as a State Historic Site by the Wyoming Legislature — moving it one step closer to becoming a state park.

A bill with the proposal is expected to come before the Legislature during the 2025 general session.

Noah Zahn is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's local government/business reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3128 or Follow him on X @NoahZahnn.