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Huntsman Appeals Wildlife Rehab Center Permit

Fillmore Farms (the Huntsman Corporation) Appeals Permit Approval for Animal Wildlife Rehab Center 

Hearing January 3, 2017 at 6:30 PM 

On November 16, 2016 the Driggs Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) unanimously granted a conditional use permit (CUP) application for the non-profit Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to develop a 3-acre wildlife rehabilitation center off Bates Road, west of Broulim’s. Now, Fillmore Farms LLC (a company owned by the Huntsman corporate conglomerate) has appealed this decision, which will go before the Driggs City Council on Tuesday January 3rd at 6:30pm. 

At the November hearing last month, Todd Woolstenhulme spoke on behalf of Fillmore Farms which owns the undeveloped parcels to the west. He expressed a need and support for the project while acknowledging the limitations of the site presented by potential future development on surrounding properties owned by Huntsman and the potential expansion of the Bonneville Power substation directly adjacent to the property. He suggested that there may potentially be a better location for TWRC in the county.

A week after the hearing, Fillmore Farms submitted an appeal, citing these reasons: 

  1. Fillmore Farms, LLC is a shareholder with rights in the Grand Teton Canal Company (GTCC). The proposed application is injurious to existing canal easements and impacts our existing delivery system.
  2. As a shareholder in GTCC, no notice of this application was provided to GTCC.
  3. Under the bylaws of GTCC, ponds have to be approved and the Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (TWRC) has not made the appropriate application to GTCC.
  4. The proximity of wild animals to Fillmore Farms, LLC property, adjacent residential and recreational property (such as Huntsman Springs), and commercial property in the immediate (Broulims and Ace Hardware) poses an unacceptable health and safety risk.
  5. CUP needs to be a use approved by the City’s ordinance. A veterinarian clinic is dissimilar to the proposed CUP as a veterinarian clinic deals primarily with domesticated animals that pose little to zero risk to public health and safety.

We will post TWRC’s response to these objections when it becomes available. 

More background info on the proposed site:

TWRC Site Plat

Although the entire property is 33 acres, the project site would be 3 acres along the western edge of the property.

A close-up of the site plan is provided below. The perimeter screening would be needed for both visual screening as well as noise reduction for the benefit of the animals. There would be 5 gravel parking stalls and a 2,000 SF office building. As a rehab center, no tours or visitors would be allowed onsite to minimize disturbance to animals. Vegetative screening and privacy are essential to this proposed use. 

Close up of site plan

How the Permit Was Evaluated By the Driggs Planning & Zoning Commission:

Under Driggs’ city ordinances, this type of use is most closely classified as a “Kennel, animal hospital or veterinary clinic” and therefore required a Conditional Use Permit. At the November 16th hearing, the P&Z evaluated the project based on conformance with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and zoning ordinances

During deliberation, Planning and Zoning Commissioner Douglas Rey expressed some concern over potentially dangerous animals escaping in such close proximity to downtown. TWRC staffers Renee Seidler and Lindsay Jones, both trained and experienced wildlife biologists, said they have protocols in place to transport, contain, and deal with any potentially dangerous animal and that they would be unable to obtain permits to continue operating should such an event occur.  They also did not anticipate rehabilitating any significant number of potentially dangerous animals as the majority of their work would involve harmless animals like songbirds and swans. TWRC also noted that wildlife rehabilitation centers are heavily regulated by Federal and State wildlife agencies, and TWRC has obtained and/or has pending approvals for all licenses necessary to operate the facility. 

Ultimately, the Commissioners voted unanimously to accept the City Planning Staff’s recommendation to approve this permit with additional conditions on waste storage, setbacks, and assurances that the site would not be open to the public. 

 

Where to view the materials:

Our Position:

Valley Advocates has submitted this letter in support of the application because it will be a quiet, low impact, environmentally friendly facility. It appears to be in conformance with the Future Land Use Map and Comp Plan which identifies this area as mostly wetlands which should have less than 1 housing unit per acre. 

In addition, we support the facility because of our commitment to protecting and preserving the world-renown wildlife resources in our little corner of the world. Injuries from human-wildlife conflicts are likely to increase in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem – we all have experienced the recent, record-breaking attendance in the national parks and surrounding communities – and we applaud TWRC for their role in addressing this growing problem. We are also proud that Teton Valley and Driggs will have the opportunity to host this much-needed facility. 

Our Program Associate Brendan Conboy offered comments in support of this CUP at the November 16th hearing, and will do so again at the upcoming January 3, 2017 hearing. 

To Give Comments: 

Written comments must be received by 5PM Wednesday, December 28,2016. You may also FAX your written response to 208-354-8522 or email to akoehler@driggsidaho.org.  Verbal and written comments will also be accepted during the public hearing on Tuesday January 3, 2017 at 6:30PM at Driggs City Hall. 

You can also contact city planner Ashley Koehler with questions at 208-354-8522 or email to akoehler@driggsidaho.org

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