June 12, 2015
Teton County Board of Commissioners
Planning & Zoning Commission
150 Courthouse Drive
Driggs, Idaho 83422
Re: Teton County Land Development Code Overhaul Process
Dear Members of the Board and the Commission:
First, we’d like to congratulate you on your progress (and your patience) in formulating the Teton County Land Development Code. It has been a long road and wethankyouforyourperseveranceanddedicationtothegoalsandpoliciesofthe Teton County Comprehensive Plan. Completing the draft code will likely bean equally herculean effort, and we offer our comments as possible considerationsin moving forward with the code overhaul process, specifically with regard to public involvement and policy development.
Initiate policy development. Originally, the Planning & Zoning Department intended to review the draft Land Development Code in a series of “modules” with public input solicited at each stage. Now that an entire draft code has been received, it may be necessary to further articulate the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan so that the code fully comports with the plan’s intent. We would term this exercise as “policy development.” We believe that policy development is best achieved through policy-‐specific study and recommendations. This may require putting the draft code aside and embarking upon a full policy development process, with the intent of revising the draft code later to incorporate such recommendations. Concepts that will likely require further development include:
- Open space and scenic view corridors
- Land division types and design
- Commercial and industrial uses outside of cities
- Natural resource protection strategies
- City areas of impact
- Affordable housing
- Other policy issues identified by the BOCC, the P&Z Commission, the P&Z Staff, and the public.
Identify BOCC Priorities. In April 2014, the P&Z Commission ranked Comp Plan policies in terms of priority, and the P&Z initiated a work plan based upon these priorities. It may be beneficial for the BOCC to complete this exercise as well. P&Z Staff can then tailor the upcoming process to incorporate both BOCC and P&Z Commission priorities.
Identify the appropriate public forum for the development of certain concepts. We understand that the Planning & Zoning Department will propose a variety of public forums including open houses, workshops, remote presentations, stakeholder meetings and interviews, and site tours. Some concepts will require specific technical advice while others will require broad public input, and the selection of the proper public forum will be key.
With regard to policy issues, we offer the following comments:
- Open space and scenic view corridors. Currently, the scenic corridor only applies to areas adjacent to state highways. There are no other geographic applications of open space standards/incentives, though, in the draft code, open space and skylining standards appear to be applicable in all areas. The Comp Plan places great importance on preserving open and scenic lands particularly because of their economic benefit. In Chapter 6, the plan recommends key actions related to open space and scenic lands: 1) inventory and assess scenic values and views, priority and beautification areas and 2) identify viewshed corridors and develop techniques to protect them. This is particularly important in Drictor and Dritonia because of the plan’s emphasis on connected open space corridors and clear boundaries between residential development and open lands.
- Land division types and desi It is important to bear in mind that the Comp Plan recommends simpler subdivisions processes (eg. Land Division, One-‐Time Only Lot Split, ,Short Plat, etc) as a means to preserve or “nurture” agriculture. These tools must be applied carefully so that they carry out their intended purpose and do not result in excessive lot production. The incorporation of a scenic/natural resource lands inventory can also provide the design guidance necessary to protect agriculture and open lands.
- Commercial and industrial uses outside of cities. The Comp Plan strongly recommends placing most commercial uses within the cities, and that only very limited types of commercial uses should be allowed in the unincorporated county. The draft code seems to square with this intent, however there seems to be a substantial amount of nonconforming uses remaining in the county. A consistent application toward such uses may be advisable, with the two primary options being 1) application of rural residential zoning to such properties that allow for little or no expansion, or 2) the application of commercial zoning to existing properties and allow for expanded commercial operations.
- Density. From the opening statement, through various policy statements, and to several key actions, the Comp Plan was written in the context of (and, arguably, as a reaction to) the vast oversupply of lots created within Teton County. Objections to reduced density seem to be based upon a perceived reduction in property value, however the opposite effect has proven true. In fact, most Comp Plan prescriptions for reducing lot production stem mainly from economic development recommendations in the plan. We recommend that density be analyzed from the perspective of overall supply -‐ and its effect on the market -‐ before additional steps are taken to assign densities within the county. A lot supply analysis could also be used to inform the “low, medium, and high” density prescriptions for each character zone in the Comp Plan. Such an analysis could also recommend coding strategies for the plan’s recommended fiscal impact and market capacity requirements for new development.
- Natural resource protection strat The draft code appears to leave current practices in place, which are to require an environmental analysis for development proposed in the Natural Resource Overlay, regardless of size or intensity. The Planning & Zoning Commission has discussed reduced requirements for environmental analyses for low-‐intensity development, particularly that that is ag-‐oriented. However, the seminal thrust of Comp Plan policy seems to support the strengthening of natural resource protections, such as increased protections in key corridors. In considering these increased protections, there may also be a need for a data refresh to ensure that natural resource protections are scientifically sound. We recommend the BOCC and P&Z articulate a clear natural resource protection strategy in consultation with natural resource experts and in cooperation with key stakeholders.
- City Areas of Impact. Historically, city-‐level densities have been allowed in Teton Valley AOIs, however, city officials in Teton Valley have openly discussed a hard urban edge in order to rejuvenate city development and contain urban spraw The revitalization of Teton Valley cities is vigorously supported in the Comp Plan. Current discussions with the county’s Planning & Zoning Commission have identified city AOIs as areas appropriate for relatively high density. However, the issue is confused somewhat by the Comp Plan recommendation of “low densities consistent with non-‐municipal services” in city AOIs and the policy of “[encouraging] development of low density, high-‐quality neighborhoods adjacent to cities.” We recommend a joint planning exercise with Driggs, Victor, and Tetonia to develop specific density and design applications in their respective AOIs.
- Workforce Housing. Teton County’s 2014 Housing Needs Assessment confirmed a significant workforce housing shortage last year, and it appears that it is becoming increasingly scarce. Because transportation costs have a profound effect on housing affordability (a phenomenon borne by high rates of commuting), the assessment recommends the provision of workforce housing in walkable areas with access to transit. Though such areas are primarily located within the cities, we recommend the County play an active role in promoting affordable housing policies throughout the
This is a brief summary of some of the policy issues that we believe require further articulation before codification. In our opinion, focused community engagement on these issues will be extremely important going forward, and a solid foundation of public input will ensure the successful implementation of the Teton Valley Land Development Code.
We wish you luck in this endeavor, and offer our help wherever we can be of assistance.
Shawn W. Hill
Valley Advocates for Responsible Development
Cc: Jason Boal, Planning Administrator
Dawn Felchle, BOCC Administrator
Kathy Spitzer, County Prosecutor