Woodworker eyeing purchase of Probst building

by nathan oster

A year and a half after its closing, a potential buyer for the historic Probst Western Store building at the corner of Greybull Avenue and Sixth Street has emerged.

Shannon Crist told members of the Greybull Town Council on Monday night that he’s negotiating with the Probsts to buy the building with the hopes of turning it into a woodworking shop. Since the downtown isn’t zoned for that type of use, he was seeking a variance.

While the Planning and Zoning Commission did not recommend it, the members of the council felt otherwise, granting it with a key stipulation that at least 1,500 square feet be used as showroom space for his various furniture and cabinetry products.

For decades a cornerstone of the downtown, the building has sat empty since the Probst family closed it in the summer of 2016.

When he approached the P&Z on Jan. 25, Crist didn’t get the decision he wanted.

Ron Wright, who chairs the commission, wrote in his report to the council that members didn’t feel the proposed use would qualify as a variance.

“A continuation of manufacturing cabinets would be the primary product with dressers, tables, etc., constructed as ordered,” he said in his report. “It was the members’ concern that an inadequate amount of display products would be manufactured to provide a retail space sufficient to fill the front retail space and fulfill its regulated use as a retail business.”

Wright wasn’t present for Monday night’s council discussion, but Crist was. Council members cited several concerns before ultimately agreeing to grant the variance.

Councilman Clay Collingwood wondered about the noise and dust generated by the machines typically found in a woodworking shop.

Crist said the walls will be heavily “soundproofed” to cut down on the noise and that dust won’t be a problem, either, due to the ventilation system he intends to use.

He added that “a lot of the cutting and heavy machine work will be done off site” and that’d be mostly assembling his products, showing them and meeting with customers at the downtown location.

Kent Richins, the town attorney, said he agreed with the P&Z that a woodworking shop “doesn’t seem to fit the zone, but I think you could argue that it wouldn’t be insensitive to neighbors and I wonder if there could be a middle ground where we award the variance but with the contingency requiring a certain number of square feet for retail space.”

As part of his request, Christ submitted a petition signed by the owners of Hope Counseling, Cricket’s, Bootlegger Emporium and Crazy Woman Territory, stating that they did not oppose the granting of the variance.

Councilman Clay Collingwood also stated that “nobody had an issue” when Vast Manufacturing was operating in the back room of the Big Horn Theater building owned by Holton and Lori Harter.

After the council’s vote, Crist said he planned to get started on his new venture as soon as possible.

In other business Monday night:

  • The proposed 316-acre residential development east of town was the subject of considerable discussion. Council members discussed potential names, layout, annexation and zoning matters. Look for more on the development in next week’s issue.
  • Police Chief Bill Brenner introduced Ken Blosser as the newest member of the department. He arrives as a certified police officer with more than nine years of experience.
  • Council members were not supportive of a request from the Greybull Heights Water Users Association, which was asking for the town to take over its system.

There are 28 users on association at the present time with ties to properties running along stretches of Horseshoe Lane and Rimrock Road. The properties lie outside of town limits.

Council members agreed that to even consider taking over the system, it must, among other things, be up to the town’s standards. They doubted that was the case with this particular system.

  • Council members signed off on the purchase of 1.42 acres of land along the Big Horn River from Joe and Karen Sylvester. The purchase price was $1,500. The land is situated between the levee at the river, generally between Ninth and 10th avenues north.
  • The council approved the renewal of the town’s liquor licenses. Six are retail, three restaurant and one limited retail.
  • Citing cost and questions about whether it would get used, council members rejected a proposal from OpenGov that would have made it easier for the public to track how the town is spending its money.

The OpenGov software would have cost $10,000 in the first year and $5,500 each subsequent year.

Council members agreed that the information is available to the public and that anyone with questions can direct them to Administrator/Finance Director Paul Thur.