Wyoming Liberty Group
Cleaning up “blighted” property is a popular new trend in Wyoming cities. Local government officials and candidates around the state have joined the anti-blight cause. Unfortunately, proposed solutions could erode property rights, impose high costs on taxpayers, and threaten financial ruin for the very people officials and candidates claim to want to help. Owners and occupants of government-targeted property have reason to worry. Blight designation is largely a subjective matter based on personal preference. One person’s blighted property might be someone else’s home on a responsible budget.
Boyd Wiggam and Gary Freeman discussed the Housing Development Toolkit recently published by the White House with a special emphasis on the suggested deregulatory reforms the Toolkit contained that would allow the marketplace, and not regulators, determine housing supply and prices in Wyoming communities with high housing costs.
Cheyenne residents were upset when they learned that City of Cheyenne officials had sent a notice of violation to a homeowner at the corner of Warren and 3rd Avenues demanding that she remove a cottonwood tree stump that is located in the City’s right-of-way. According to the Cheyenne Urban Forestry Division’s Assistant Director, “in the case of stumps, it’s often an aesthetic issue when the stumps need to be removed. City regulations require the stump to be removed and ground up to a depth of 8 inches.” However, the landowner claims that her stump is special because she had it carved into a statue. So is it a stump or a statute? And a quick look around Cheyenne raises an even more fundamental question, should it even make a difference?
Halloween has passed, but it seems zombie bills come back again. One example is Representative Byrd’s Abandoned Buildings bill from the Wyoming Legislature’s 2015 General Session. The abandoned buildings bill was a direct attack on owners of historic buildings in downtown Cheyenne who have struggled for years to find profitable tenants to fill their buildings. The House Corporations Committee rightly killed the bill last session, but like all good zombies, it came back again.
Article 6 of the Cheyenne Unified Development Code imposes aesthetic design regulations on developers. One of the basic goals of the UDC’s design regulations is to make new buildings look pretty according to the standard of attractiveness defined in the UDC. As usual, the government-imposed rules for what buildings are pretty enough ignore the cost of the required decorations. This cost is how the Cheyenne UDC actually harms the people who live and work in Cheyenne. One current housing development project working its way through the regulatory approval process shows exactly how the high cost of pretty buildings hurts individuals and their families.
Cheyenne area planners, politicians, and selected “stakeholders” attended the Technical Assistance Workshops presented by Smart Growth America on April 21-22, 2015. These workshops were designed to help local leaders understand and implement smart growth strategies and billed as a planning tool to improve fiscal and economic health and sustainability for the City and its residents.