April 10, 2015
Teton County Planning & Zoning Commission
150 Courthouse Drive
Driggs, ID 83422
Re: Parcel Rectification Ordinance:
Dear P&Z Commissioners:
I applaud the efforts of Planning & Zoning Staff and the County Commissioners in seeking recourse options for owners of lands that fail to meet the definition of a “legally created lot.” The draft Section 9-11 of Title 9 (the “Parcel Rectification Ordinance) is a great start. However, I believe that several key issues must be addressed before the Planning & Zoning Commission issues a recommendation on the ordinance.
The location of potentially eligible parcels should be studied further. Though I understand that the process within the Parcel Rectification Ordinance is designed to be a passive in nature – landowners must apply to seek eligibility under the ordinance – it may behoove Teton County to seek more information about the location of the potential properties in question. This is important for several reasons:
#1. Potentially eligible parcels could contaminate groundwater conditions for surrounding landowners in areas susceptible to Nutrient-Pathogen (NP) contamination. The Nutrient-Pathogen Ordinance (Section 9-3-2 -C-3-b) was adopted in Title 9 to direct the placement of on-site sewage disposal systems in order to avoid groundwater degradation and unsafe drinking water. Potentially eligible parcels may be located in areas with subdivision-level densities. Currently, all Title 9 subdivisions are required to complete an NP evaluation if any of the following criteria are met:
1. The proposed development lies wholly or partially within the Wetland and Waterways (WW) Overlay Area (Section 8-5-1-D of Title 8);
2. There is evidence that groundwater, at some time of the year, comes within ten feet of the ground’s surface at any location on the proposed development parcel; or
3. There is evidence that soil depth to fractured bedrock is ten (10) feet or less anywhere on the proposed development; or
4. The development application includes a food service, a commercial facility, or and industrial facility generating 600 gallons for more of wastewater per day; or
5. The proposed development is within an area where the concentration of nitrate-nitrogen in groundwater is five (5) mg/L of higher.
#2. Potentially eligible parcels could be located in the Hillside (H), Wetlands and Waterways (WW), or Wildlife Habitat (WH) overlays, impacting wildlife habitat. Again, potentially eligible lots could be located in clusters with subdivision-level density, and/or be located within areas with prime wildlife habitat. Title 9 currently requires a Natural Resource Assessment for any subdivision within these overlays.
The location of the potentially eligible parcels, approximate or otherwise, is not known, and thus the cumulative impacts of the draft ordinance are not known. If a preponderance of eligible parcels cannot be identified through GIS or other means, then the P&Z should consider limiting the applicability of the Parcel Rectification Ordinance to areas outside of natural resource overlays and areas known that have high NP sensitivity.
The P&Z Commission should consider narrowing the applicability of the Parcel Rectification Ordinance. As drafted, the current ordinance extends eligibility to parcels meeting the following criteria:
1. A process outside of those identified in Teton County Title 9: Subdivision Regulations; [or]
2. Following a process in the Teton County Title 9: Subdivision Regulations but not meeting the criteria of approval identified; [or]
3. [The parcel was] created through an agricultural only process.
I believe Criterion #2 is perfectly reasonable. If a landowner received documented county approval for a parcel split, then he/she should be reasonably assured of building permit rights.
However, Criterion #1 may be a cause for concern. Parcels can be created in many, many ways, and the sweeping “a process outside of Title 9” criteria could have unforeseen impacts when all parcels of unknown origin created (in the timeframe specified) are granted eligibility.
Criterion #3 is also concerning. Agricultural splits were created for just that – agriculture. Conferring building permit rights through a process intended to facilitate/promote agriculture may be contrary to the original intent of the ag split.
Finally, the P&Z Commission may want to consider using the term “Lot of Record” instead of “Legally Created Lot.” This is common parlance for lots with building rights and is found in the County’s draft code as well as current codes in Driggs and Victor. Some tightening of the draft “Lot of Record” definition may be needed to address the unique conditions of Teton County.
Thank you for your consideration.
Shawn W. Hill
Valley Advocates for Responsible Development