Upton Update: UEDB Land Use Plan

17 Mar 2021

When Upton was christened the “Best Town on Earth” in the early twentieth century to lure prospective settlers from down the railroad tracks, the man that gave Upton that title probably didn’t know his words would end up becoming true. Those of us that have lived in Upton for most of our lives, can attest to the honesty of those words, and the same can be said by newcomers to the community.

But even the “Best Town on Earth” is not immune to decline. Upton, as a community, is facing down the same struggles as many municipalities in the State of Wyoming. There has been a slight decrease in population since the last census, some businesses have dried up, and the statewide budgetary and economic pressures caused by the decline of the oil, coal, and gas industries haven’t overlooked the “Best Town on Earth”. They have hit this community hard as it is the home of many that work in the mines and oilfields. There are those that lament the darkness on the horizon and do nothing, and then there are those actively trying to realign this community on a path to prosperity and growth.

Those that are not content to just let the future bring what it may recognize that a big first step, a foundation, is what’s required. That foundation and first step is the Upton Economic Development Board (UEDB) Land Use Plan, a tool developed with guidance from the UEDB Property Development Committee and Wyss Associates, Inc., a Black Hills-based landscape architectural firm that specializes in property development and planning. This UEDB Land Use Plan focuses on the UEDB property across Highway 16 from the Upton Logistics Center, including the development of a prospective hotel on that property, and the Plan would serve as a prototype of how to promote  the community of Upton to attract other opportunities and could help to encourage the creation of other plans focused on other properties in Upton.

When asked what the purpose of the Plan was, UEDB Director Clark Coberly stated, “The purpose of the Land Use Plan is to have something in place to determine how the UEDB can best utilize our property and meet the needs of the community at the same time. The Land Use Plan gives us the opportunity to have a foundation to look at possibilities for future development and can then be adjusted as needs or other possibilities arise.”

Tony Barton, fellow UEDB Director, added, “It is also a tool to show a potential developer that we have a plan or a vision for that property. For example, people want to know that if they put in a housing development or business park, the adjacent land is not going to be a scrap yard or heavy industrial site.”

It could serve as an example of community collaboration as well. Upton is fortunately beginning to see a resurgence of collaboration between entities focusing on Upton’s future, such as the Upton Chamber of Commerce, Upton Town Council, UEDB, Upton Airport Board, and Weston County School District #7, in addition to business owners and community-minded folks like Upton’s Scott Gerber, who has held meetings with community leaders about a vision for Upton’s future. The UEDB Land Use Plan would be a step toward achieving that vision.

As for the focus on this particular UEDB property, Barton explained, “This land is obviously not the only place these needs can be met. Much of the land in Upton that would be prime for development for a business district is privately held. We [the UEDB] felt at this time it was too big of a lift to try and get all those owners together to do a plan of this scale.” He continued, “That being said, I think the UEDB stands ready and willing to assist any property owner in town that has a vision for their property to help market that property and include it in a future plan.”

A four-point plan, the UEDB Land Use Plan would firstly focus on business retention and expansion, tying in workforce development. This is largely associated with the prospective hotel on the property and additional businesses that could settle there as well.

Secondly, the Plan focuses on housing for an increasing workforce to temporarily reside, with a Cobblestone Hotel & Suites location here in Upton being integral. Cobblestone has other hotel locations in Wyoming communities, and they’ve expressed interest to the UEDB in an Upton location. “The hotel can provide lodging for already existing business's clients, customers or workers,” stated Coberly, adding, “The hotel could also support tourist accommodations or other overnight needs for travelers and guests to the community.”

Increasing the number of rental opportunities in Upton comprises the Plan’s third point. The Plan includes locations for potential apartments on the section of land it covers, and also a walking trail that would eventually tie back into Upton in the future. “I feel one of the biggest inhibitors to this town’s growth is a lack of newer housing stock, including apartments,” Barton remarked. “This plan lays out potential sites for housing and apartments for a developer to come in and build. There are also excellent sites in town and the UEDB has been working with the Town of Upton to advertise some of these sites for single family and or apartments.”

Finally, the fourth point of the UEDB Land Use Plan looks at opportunities for further residential housing, building up a permanent population of citizens, which would have a profound benefit for our community in every respect. Though the Plan does include sites for potential housing, the main way it could trigger further growth is by showing the community and potential investors what can be done with further development and further projects in Upton.

“The plan is very important for Upton’s future as it provides a place to land for customers and workers of already existing bu- siness,” stated Coberly. “Additionally, it indicates a commitment to the future of Upton to the community and potential businesses seeking to locate here. Finally, developed land and business located on the property included in the plan will generate additional revenue to the Town of Upton and community.”

“The plan is also just a beginning, which can be adjusted to specific needs of the community as the UEDB intends to plan for the development of the Highways 16 and 116 Junction and other property in town,” Coberly explained in closing. “It is not the only step, but it is definitely the next step in guiding Upton economic development for the future.”

UEDB President John Marshall stated that ground will be broken for the hotel on Highway 16 in the next two to three months, with a prospective completion date this autumn.

Courtesy of the Weston County Gazette