Albany County Commissioners approve regulation changes for Casper Aquifer Protection Zone
The Albany County Commissioners voted 2-0 to pass proposed regulation and zoning changes on the Casper Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone (APOZ) on Tuesday. The APOZ is an area east of Laramie where the Casper Aquifer is close to the surface and could be vulnerable to contaminants. It's been the subject of a lot of controversy.
The approved amendments will change septic system requirements and allowances and establish a minimum lot size of 35 acres on the APOZ. It also amended the western edge of the boundary to be more in line with the City of Laramie's Casper Aquifer Protection Plan.
The commissioners heard over an hour and a half of public testimony before their vote. Several residents and advocacy groups spoke in favor of the changes, praising the amount of work that had gone into them and arguing that stronger protections were the only way to secure clean water for the future.
Commissioner Heber Richardson abstained from the vote, having stormed out of the meeting before it was taken, but he had indicated he would vote against the changes. He said the restrictions could create financial hardship for people.
"What this means is that you are de facto gonna be on the hook to do whatever needs to be done to comply with this. And there is no help coming. It's too complicated to go find it. It's harder than to just pay for it yourself," he said.
Several people voiced similar concerns and were worried that their private property rights were being threatened.
"The truth is that an owner does not have the right to do whatever with his or her land, especially if it is to the detriment of the greater public. And every new septic system adds to the overall groundwater system for eventually the entire system is compromised," Commissioner Sue Ibarra said in response to private property concerns.
She added that there may be aid available for residents, though there isn't a program in place yet.