Sheridan County Commissioners voted three to two in favor of rezoning 114 acres of land from agricultural to industrial. It’s the first regulatory step for Ramaco Wyoming Coal Company LLC, which owns the land, to eventually develop there.
Ramaco has been embroiled in controversy over its proposed Brook Mine. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality denied its permit last year. This land, though, would likely be used to house the company's research facilities.
Bob Rolston, a Sheridan County Commissioner, said the meeting lasted approximately two and half hours. He estimated that over 50 percent of those who spoke were against the rezoning. Those who supported it said it could provide economic development and jobs.
Rolston voted in favor of rezoning the plot of land and said it was in line with a long-standing comprehensive plan.
"One of the areas that we designated as an industrial area was that area out there. I can’t say we saw the crystal ball, but it was for an opportunity such as this,” he said.
But Shannon Anderson, staff attorney with the Powder River Basin Resource Council, said that plan did not identify any specific parcels of land for industrial activity and that it would not have included the land now being rezoned.
“It was always recognized that future industry wouldn’t be adjacent to the Tongue River, it wouldn’t be on the west side of the interstate as Ramaco proposed.” Anderson said, "and it would be… really balancing with the existing land uses of agricultural, residential, and recreation. None of which are present here with Ramaco."
Some landowners spoke out against the proposal with environmental concerns including the proximity of potential industrial activity to wildlife habitats and the Tongue River.
Jeff Barron with WWC Engineering is a project manager for Ramaco. He expects to see development on the land within nine to 18 months. He adds this was the first regulatory step to beginning development.