Fencing for subdivisions discussed at length during commissioner meeting


Paul Thur was rehired as the county’s full-time Airport and Land Planning Manager after an executive session at the December 19 meeting of the Big Horn County commissioners.

In airport news, Thur noted that in a recent meeting regarding the airports it was recommended that a commissioner sit on the steering committee for the airports master plans. Commission Chairman Bruce Jolley will fill that seat. 

Thur suggested that the master plan show the proposed Search and Rescue building, even though the building is still in the discussion stages.

“Just because it goes in there doesn’t commit anybody to anything,” Thur explained.

Thur thanked the commission for the Martin Mercer appointment to the county airport board.

For land planning there was a simple subdivision request that the commissioners approved. There was also some discussion about subdivisions and homes that are in flood zone areas.

Commissioner Dave Neves asked for more discussion regarding fencing for subdivisions within the county.

“As far as the fencing it says subdivider shall be responsible for the construction of the perimeter fence on any part of the subdivision that is adjacent to lands upon which livestock can be legally run at large,” Neves said, “unless a perimeter fence already exists or with the adjacent landowner’s consent that a perimeter fence is not necessary.“ 

Neves expressed concern that he does not feel that this requirement should be exempted for small subdivisions as requested by the Planning and Zoning Board. Doing so puts a burden on the person(s) with the livestock. He asked commissioners Deb Craft and Bruce Jolley their thoughts. 

“I agree,” Thur said. “That was my original take in my presentation to the board (P&Z). They went the other way, but I said, ‘Hey, if you are a developer, you’re going to make money on your property. Otherwise, why would you do it?’ Thus, part of your plan to develop and sell your lots should be the infrastructure, which is fence.” 

Thur continued that 99% of the subdivisions in the county are going to border ranches, farms or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. The subdivisions that do not would be most likely within town limits. 

Jolley mentioned that at the P&Z meeting the day before, “they talked about Land Planning kind of policing some of those issues and making sure people do it. Was that (fencing) one of those issues or not?”

Thur replied that was more about the Homeowners Association (HOA) regarding the subdivision roads and common areas within the subdivision. He explained, “A common road in a subdivision, is it ever going to slip through where Paul, Stephanie or whoever down the road sees it and says there is a common road here? How do you justify not having that in there? That issue can be addressed. The HOA exception could be passed through, then there is us (Land Planning staff), P&Z, then you three (commissioners) asking why the road isn’t covered in the HOA and on the plat.”

Thur continued that the plat would be easily policed. Fencing would be a can of worms. He believes that the P&Z board was thinking about a case of a farmer subdividing the farm she/he has lived on all their lives and are now subdividing. The board doesn’t want to “skuttle” the farmer’s plans, he said, adding, “They said we don’t want to tell someone they can’t subdivide because they can’t afford to fence.”

Deputy County Attorney Jen Kirk stated that Wyoming is a fence-out state, explaining, “If they want to subdivide it is either placing an unfair burden on a stock owner whose responsibility is not to fence, or it is ultimately being placed on the person that buys the property to put the fence on there. Part of that responsibility should fall on the developer.” 

Thur said he believes the P&Z board will say to just put the fence on the plat.

“That will be the answer, that it has to be on the plat,” he said. “In addition to, say there is one road going in. On the plat it says common road shall be paid for, maintenance shall be paid for by all subdivision lot owners. The next note would say all fencing of the subdivision is required of future lot owners.”

He continued that he is not sure if this is legal by just placing it on the plat. Water, wastewater and roads are all included in the statute that must be addressed on a plat. Could a developer not have to do a fence if it is put on the plat that isn’t fenced. Kirk stated she doesn’t believe so. 

She believes that is based on the state’s fence-out status. Wyoming law and historically livestock has been treated as if a fence should be required. She added it didn’t have to be a fancy, expensive fence.

Thur pointed out that a lot of the parcels being subdivided are smaller farms. They might already have fences. 

He added that the statute regarding fencing has been in place for years, but many planning offices didn’t know because it was listed in the ag section of state statues. It wasn’t being enforced by many counties. The state has since moved that portion in to the subdivision portion of the statute. 

Commissioner Deb Craft asked Thur for a clear definition of the difference between a major subdivision and a simple one. He explained five lots or less are simple. Major subdivision borders must be fenced, not every lot. The request to exempt from the P&Z Board is for simple subdivisions.

Thur invited the commissioners to come to the next P&Z meeting to discuss their thoughts with that board.