Sid Fox, AICP is the Planning Director for Carbon County in Wyoming. He started with Carbon County in the spring of 2010. The planning staff of three serves as the administrative support for the County Planning & Zoning Commission. Their main role is to implement the County Comprehensive Plan through administration of zoning and subdivision regulations.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Not sure, but had no idea about being a Land Use Planner. Thank you Penn State and Ian McHarg, Design with Nature-1969.
Describe your planning background and education.
Penn State, BS-Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology
Over the years I have found the RMLUI at DU to be particularly useful for bringing together a broad range of professionals with expertise in planning and law to support the continuing education of our profession.
How did you get into the planning profession?
Got an internship my senior year with Wayne County PA. Wonder if that Sterling Township Plan was ever completed? Having no contact with Wayne County for almost forty years, it was quite a hoot to read a letter to the editor in Planning Magazine from the Wayne County Planning Director-my supervisor in 1976!
First job out of college was with USDA. Started in New Orleans, got transferred to Denver and was supposed to transfer again to Kansas City. At that point, Colorado had too much to offer and I was not excited about my work with USDA or moving to Kansas City. Resigned from USDA and decided to start anew in Colorado.
An old college buddy was a planner in Eagle County and let me know of an opening on the County staff. Started with Eagle County Community Development in 1981. Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, Eagle County was in the midst of changing from a sleepy hard rock mining and ranching economy to a fast paced, high dollar resort economy. I-70 was opening over Vail Pass to Glenwood Canyon and the Eagle River Valley would never be the same.
Interesting reviewing the first Western Planner magazine-very first issue from 1980. Lots of talk of coal mining in Wyoming, energy impact assistance and railroads. On the western slope of Colorado, we were talking about trans-basin water diversion. Aurora and Colorado Springs had undeveloped water rights on the headwaters of the Eagle River and they were coming to harvest more of their water rights. Colorado had just passed HB 1041-Areas and Activities of State Interest-as delegated to local government. Municipal and Industrial water projects just became an activity of state interest as permitted by local governments. Local government had a new role to play and a new chapter in the administration of Colorado water had begun. At that time, the coal discussion in the first edition of Western Planner was a distant memory of growing up in Western Pennsylvania and starting college in West Virginia. The coal economy was migrating from Appalachia to the west. For good reason, it was cleaner (anyone remember acid rain?) and cheaper to mine. At that time coal was king in Carbon County-mostly in and around Hanna. There is no coal mining in Carbon County today. There are similar stories of historic coal mining and power plant closures from my childhood in Western Pennsylvania.
Describe your favorite planning project.
I cannot help but to reflect on the current wind energy development in Carbon County with the evolution of the coal mining industry. In Carbon County, we are producing lots of electricity-none of it coming from coal. In 2010, the Wyoming legislature passed a law that made it “unlawful to locate, erect, construct, reconstruct or enlarge a wind energy facility without first obtaining a permit from the Board of County Commissioners.” Carbon County had several existing wind energy projects, several permitted “paper” projects and several large projects waiting in the wings. In response to the legislation that required local permits, I got busy writing the County Wind Energy Regulations-with some expert legal assistance-as an overlay in our Zoning Resolution.
There has been a significant amount of interest in developing wind resource in Carbon County. The primary limiting factor has been the lack of transmission line capacity. Two major electric transmission lines (Gateway West and Trans West Express) are likely to be constructed in the next couple years that should break the “bottleneck” and provide the infrastructure to export Wyoming Energy produced from abundant wind power.
Existing wind energy\electricity production in Carbon County is approximately 500 megawatts (MW). Since 2010, we have permitted approximately 4,000 MW of potential wind generated electricity. With the projects that are being planned, Carbon County is likely to produce between 5,000-6,000 MW in the near future.
To give you an idea of the efficiency improvements in wind energy production technology, one of the pending projects is to decommission\replace 68 existing towers with 12 new towers-producing the same amount of electricity.
There has been some resistance to expanded development of the wind energy resource in the form of the wind tax. Currently, Wyoming assesses a $1 per MW wind energy production tax. At this level, the production tax is probably not high enough to curtail further wind energy development. There is talk, as well as draft proposals, to increase the wind energy tax up to $5 per MW. The existing production tax has generated approximately $2,358,840 over a 5-year period for Carbon County.
I get great satisfaction when I am able to assist the Planning Commission and Board with the implementation of the policy goals, strategies and actions identified in the Comprehensive Plan\Master Plan. We are currently reviewing our policy for locating commercial energy projects-primarily wind and solar-with particular attention to identifying potential impacts on wildlife habitats. Fortunately, the proposed amendments to our wind energy regulations are consistent with policies that were identified in our Comprehensive Plan.
Why do you belong to Western Planner?
Like many Counties in the West, Carbon County Wyoming is a large area, 7,964 square miles with a population of less than 16,000. The mission of Western Planner to serve planning professional is particularly important in rural areas where staff and consultants are limited. The ability to network and review how others address similar issues is particularly helpful.
What is your favorite piece of advice given to you? Who gave it?
To be successful, you do not have to be the smartest person in the room, but you do have to pay attention and do your homework.
Invest Wisely, Own Your Tomorrow-Charles Schwab
What piece of advice would you give someone just out of college and starting into the planning profession?
I have found that the answers, or at least progress, too many planning problems\issues lie in the details. Discovering the details requires time and hard work. Pick your area of expertise carefully, because you will be spending a lot of time and hard work figuring out the details.
Published in April 2019