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River Rim Ranch is Re-Platted!

River Rim is Re-Platted!

The Board of County Commissioners approved the re-plat of River Rim on November 13, 2013! 

At this hearing, VARD spoke in support of the recommendations passed by the Planning & Zoning Commission back in August, and urged the Board to uphold them.  Because of a family conflict of interest, Commissioner Kunz recused himself from this hearing. Commissioners Rinaldi and Park both voted to uphold the Planning & Zoning Commission’s recommendations: a 150-lot reduction in housing density, a 588-acre increase in open space, reducing the number of lots along the Teton River, and a condition that reseeding the golf course area with native grasses is completed by December 2014. They also added these two conditions:

  • No overnight accommodations, retail, or restaurants shall be allowed at the River Rim sales office along Highway 33. No storage units or conference facilities are allowed there either.
  • All infrastructure must be completed in each phase before that particular phase can be recorded and lot sales can commence.

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Report from the August 13, 2013 re-plat hearing before the Teton County Planing & Zoning Commission.

VARD spoke in support of the planning staff’s recommendations for approving this re-plat proposal: a 150-lot reduction in housing density, a 588-acre increase in open space, reducing the number of lots along the Teton River, and a condition that reseeding the golf course area with native grasses is completed by December 2014. On a 3:2 vote, the Planning & Zoning Commission recommended approval of this re-plat proposal with the these conditions included. It will now go to the Board of County Commissioners for final approval.

  • HERE are River Rim’s submittals and the Teton County staff report for the August 13, 2013 hearing.
  • HERE is our August 1, 2013 comment letter outlining the unresolved issues with this re-plat proposal.
  • HERE is the new plat design, the county staff report, and VARD’s comment letter submitted for the May 14, 2013 hearing before the Planning & Zoning Commission.
  • HERE is our May 6, 2013 comment letter offering a conditional endorsement of this re-plat proposal.

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Report from the November 17, 2011 hearing with the Board of County Commissioners.

After less than an hour of deliberation, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed an amended Development Agreement for River Rim Ranch, giving an extended deadline of 2016 for Phase 1 and 2026 for Phases 2-6. The issues behind this decision are very complex, with the potential for significant impacts on the North End landscape. Thus, we have written this detailed meeting report.

What’s going on? On November 17, 2011 Teton County held a public hearing to take comment on the proposed amendments to the development agreement between Teton County and River Rim. This is an opportunity for the public to comment on the long term plan for this golf resort Planned Unit Development (PUD) that is only partially built and now bank-owned. Teton County has been in mediation with Glacier Bank (owner since 2010) after discussions broke down over the Glacier’s refusal to complete the unfinished phases of the development. (See video below) Although 189 lots have already been sold, Glacier is trying to sell the property, and has already sold off Phase 5 of Division II. (If you are confused by all the different Phases of River Rim, read “River Rim by the numbers” as posted below.)

Why is this a big deal?  There are many issues at stake in this particular negotiation with Teton County. To name a few:

  • Selling off open space. Division II of River Rim was originally platted to have a minimum of at least 2,700 acres of deeded open space. However, only about 900 acres are currently protected, and right now, many of these acres are razed lands covered with weeds (see video below).   Last year, Glacier Bank sold off Division II, Phase 5 of River Rim which included over 24 farm conservation units and 480+ acres of deeded open space. While the golf village was supposed to be the high density/commercial core of River Rim, Phases 2-6 were supposed to be the extremely low-density, conservation oriented portions of the development. Put another way, Phases 2-6 “sweetened the deal” for Teton County to approve this large semi-commercial development. With Phase 5 already sold, and the remaining Phases 2,3,4,and 6 also for sale, this begs the question: Can River Rim sell off all their open space and conservation units, but yet retain their 200+ percent density bonus for the incomplete golf village that is in Phase 1? 
  • 36 acres of commercial uses. Did you know that River Rim was originally platted to include 36-acres of “incidental” commercial uses along Highway 33 and within the golf village including (to name a few) a gas station, car wash, storage units, restaurant/cafes, pro shop, conference center, spa, and bed & breakfast? Under old county ordinances, certain limited commercial uses could be permitted so long as they are no more than 2.0% of the entire developed acreage of the property. Here, River Rim focused all of their 36-acres of commercial uses in Phase 1 of Division II, but now they are selling off their later undeveloped phases. Looking at what is built in River Rim, they are only entitled to 9.35 acres. Similar to the open space issue above: Why should River Rim get to retain an almost 300% bonus of commercial uses (which are actually prohibited in Ag-20 zoning) when they are selling off the rest of their project?
  • Relocation of Hoopes Road. The relocation and improvement of this county road was a significant public benefit that was part of the original negotiation for approving River Rim PUD. To date, it has not been done.
  • Weeds! Lack of weed control and long-term management plan for the landscape that has been razed and left fallow since at least 2009. (See video below)

Here are some pertinent documents for your review:

  • The River Rim Master Plan – this document will give you an idea of the layout of River Rim and all the different Phases of the project.
  • River Rim’s website where you can review an interactive rendering of the Master Plan for this PUD.
  • Proposed Amendments to the River Rim Division II Development Agreement. These amendments are what is being considered at the hearing. Note that on this link you can also review the planning staff’s report which gives an excellent summary of this project.
  • The original Division II Development Agreement (including plat maps)
  • River Rim General Disclosures as posted on their website – including real estate disclosures.

********(Our Original Post From 2010)********

What’s the status of River Rim Ranch?  

Many of you have inquired as to status of River Rim Ranch. What portions are complete? What does the future hold for this development?  You ask, we answer:

River Rim by the numbers:

River Rim was originally designed as a 5,500 acre high-end golf course community, located at the North end of Teton County. Division I was first platted in 2004 with 72 units/lots of 898 acres, including the Overlook Lodge. Division I is considered to be the “finished” portion of River Rim Ranch that we all see today. It is actually significantly smaller than the unfinished portions of Division II which many folks do not realize are platted out there because the infrastructure improvements have not yet been installed.  However, to say Division I is “finished” really is a relative term because while there are 72 units in Division I, the County Planning Department reports that only 16 houses have been built, and we do not have good data on the occupancy rate of these homes.

Division II is over four times larger than Division I. Platted in 2007 directly across Highway 33, it has an additional 562 units/lots on 4,595 acres. As you can see in this July 20, 2010 video below, Division II is the portion of River Rim that remains incomplete.

River Rim
(Click Picture to View Our Aerial Video of River Rim)

Please note that what you are viewing in the video is only Phase 1 of Division II; there are supposed to be a total of 6 Phases. Teton County GIS data estimates the razed area shown in the video (which is supposed to be the golf course) encumbers over 550 acres. According to the Teton County Planning Department, representatives from River Rim report that this area has been reseeded but this has yet to be confirmed.  Virtually no infrastructure work has been done on the remaining 2,948 acres in Phases 2-6.

The Teton County Planning Department reports that 189 lots have been sold (80 of them are in Division II) and 16 houses are built in Division I. (Obviously, with the infrastructure incomplete, there are no houses in Division II.) River Rim has recently gone through foreclosure and is now owned by Glacier Bank / Big Sky Western Bank.

Where things stand with Teton County:

In May of 2010, River Rim extended their letter of credit with Big Sky Western Bank until June 1, 2011 to give them time to finish Phase 1 of Division II.  At this time, the County Commissioners expressed concerns over the incomplete infrastructure and asked River Rim to return in July to finalize a timeline for finishing their infrastructure.  Also of concern was the feasibility of ever building out Phases 2-6. By September, the property was owned by Glacier Bank / Bank of Big Sky. The County Commissioners met with Glacier to discuss finishing the project, but the meeting ended on uncertain terms as the County felt like they did not have any clear information as to who owned the project, the status of financing, etc. The property is now controlled by Glacier Bank and they have indicated that they do not want to invest in completing the infrastructure improvements for Division II as they are trying to sell the property.

Negotiations with Teton County have now broken down over Glacier’s refusal to pin down a reasonably short timeline for finishing the infrastructure improvements they are contractually obligated to do. This includes finishing the county roads out there, managing dust and weeds, and finally, implementing the large-scale conservation units. The Ag 20 zoning on this property would only permit 275 homes, so this PUD was given an additional 350 unit density bonus above the underlying zoning and also 20 acres of commercial uses in exchange for completing these improvements – which have yet to be done. Glacier’s interpretation of their development agreement is that they have several more years to finish River Rim. That said, their development agreement requires them to be totally done with Phase 1 by 2010, so they are already in breach of their agreement. In addition, Glacier has sold off Phase 5 of Division II, and Phases 2,3,4, and 6 are also for sale.

River Rim’s future:

Some may consider River Rim “too big to fail” as 189 lots have already been sold and utilities are installed. On the flip side, with only 16 of 640 lots built out (this is 2.5 % build out), the size and scope of this incomplete development may never, ever be feasible out there. Why build out Phases 2-6 as it may take decades to fill up what has already been installed?  Why permit this kind of a density entitlement to continue on while the infrastructure obligations remain incomplete? The location of River Rim is remote, and as homes are built here and there over the next several decades, it will become apparent the impact they will have on the North end landscape and environment. Now is the time to consider whether Phases 2-6 (and even Phase 1 as it is incomplete) should ever be built out there.

Teton County has now entered into mediation with Glacier Bank. On Wednesday, August 10th, the Board of County Commissioners, the County Attorney, attorneys from Glacier, and a professional mediator took a tour or River Rim. This tour was not open to the public. That said, if you are ever out on the North end, you can drive out along the county roads and see River Rim for yourself and send your comments to the Commissioners and County Attorney. Last year, VARD submitted this letter regarding the current state of River Rim and the lack of a long-term plan for this project. A settlement proposal has been discussed between Glacier and the Board of County Commissioners. The Commissioners have insisted that any tentative settlement proposal will be taken to public hearing so the general community can comment on the terms of the agreement. We will keep you posted when this proposal is made public and let you know when the hearing will be held.

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