Cheyenne has had something of a great wall to its west, blocking growth in an area that city officials believe is poised to take off. That could change soon if the city decides it can legally annex the F.E. Warren Air Force Base into city limits.
The Cheyenne City Council’s Public Services Committee recently approved a resolution directing city staff to begin reviewing whether the city can legally annex the military base adjacent to its western border.
The resolution was co-sponsored by Ward Two Councilman Tom Segrave and Ward Three Councilwoman Michelle Aldrich.
“I’ve asked them to try to have that (review) done by the end of the year,” Segrave told Cowboy State Daily. “And then we’ll decide if we’re actually going to do the ordinance, if we can legally do it.”
Segrave and Aldrich told Cowboy State Daily the primary reason they have proposed the annexation is to help Cheyenne continue growing.
“This gives us the opportunity to develop property, primarily to the south of the base,” Segrave said.
A Long Time Coming
Annexing the military base is something that’s been talked about before, Alrich said.
“I think one of the things people don’t realize is that this is something that’s been being discussed for over 20 years,” she said.
The Air Force, meanwhile, has not spoken for or against the idea, either in the past or more recently.
“I think if there were any major concerns, if it was really going to make a change for them that, you know, they would probably have an opinion on it,” Aldrich said. “But it really won’t impact them as far as what their experiences, what their residents’ experiences are on the base at this point.”
As per Department of Defense policy, it doesn't take a position either way on annexation, said Joseph Coslett, chief of operations for Public Affairs for the 90th Missile Wing, in a statement to Cowboy State Daily.
"We have a very close relationship with the city of Cheyenne and Laramie County, and appreciate their continued support," according to the statement.
Taking Down The West Wall
Mayor Patrick Collins, meanwhile, told Cowboy State Daily that the city’s growth on the west side is being hampered by the base.
“We can’t grow because there’s a wall to our west,” he said. “If we annex (the base) that wall goes away. If you think about annexation laws, you have to touch land in order to be able to grow, and if there’s a base between you and the land, you can’t grow.”
Despite that, property to the west is already being developed outside city limits, and the city is already serving some customers in that area.
“That area is going to start to expand,” Collins said. “We are going to start to see a need for more business parks, and we want to be able to serve those and have them be in city limits.”
Some of the acreage to the west is set for new housing units, but there are also business complexes to the west that have large facilities. These include the Walmart Distribution Center and Microsoft’s data center.
Cheyenne already provides water to the military base, as well as to the Walmart Distribution Center and the Microsoft’s data center.
“We have, I would guess, around 16,000 people that we serve with city water for sewer who are not in the city limits, plus business parks and things like that,” Collins said.
Population Boost Won’t Hurt Economic Development
The addition of the military base would add about 2,900 people to Cheyenne’s population base. That won’t hurt the city’s chances when it comes to attracting economic development. Population stats are often requested by developers when they are deciding whether to locate in a community.
Population stats are used for other things as well, including distributing more than $2.8 trillion in federal funds to communities across the nation each fiscal year.
“For instance, when they do homeless counts and things of that nature, they have, you know, a formula that’s based on population,” Aldrich said. “And we’ve never been able to count the base numbers in any of our population for federal grants or monies.”
Having the base within city limits should create a more “seamless pipeline” for law enforcement and emergency services as well, Aldrich suggested.
“We work really well with their police force and with their fire department that they have on base and with their emergency responders,” she said. “But this will just make it a lot more seamless because they’ll actually be part of the city limits.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.