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Cement Batch Plant CUP tabled; Driggs Centre Business Park tabled; Pioneer Park approved; Crooked Creek approved; Targhee Hills Estates approved; Mountain Legends PUD remanded back to P&Z

Below are reports on items of interest from the Sept 13th BOCC public hearings meeting.

Burns Cement Batch Plant height CUP

This agenda item was tabled due to confusion over what exactly was being heard and whether it was correctly noticed. Some of the confusion arose out of the fact that the property is located in the Driggs Area of Impact and therefore is processed by both the city and county, and this process was not clear to some of the parties involved. The agenda item was tabled with the understanding that Attorney Bart Birch and Administrator Hibbert will research the issues and re-notice the hearing. 

Driggs Centre Business Park tabled

This hearing was to consider two concurrent applications, one for a zone change from AR-2.5 (2.5 acre residential) to M-1 (light manufacturing) and one for a standard subdivision which would fit into an M-1 zone.  The proposed subdivision is a business park made up of 55 lots on 60 acres, with mostly one acre lots.  Attorney Sean Moulton represented the owner, who could not attend the meeting.  He said that the market was ready for this kind of development, which would provide local businesses, particularly contractors, a place to set up shop legally at an affordable price.  He claimed it would not amount to spot zoning because of the gravel pits and landfill already in the neighborhood.  Rather, the business park with its landscaping would actually improve the neighborhood.  He argued that the business park would not undermine commercial activity in Driggs because it would service a different market from the developments planned for the city’s manufacturing zones.  However Driggs Planning Administrator Doug Self said that Driggs Centre was aiming for the same buyers as several business park developments within the city limits and impact area. 

During public comment Kim Billimoria, representing VARD, raised the county’s lack of a Projected Land Use Map (PLUM) as problematic because 1) the PLUM would guide a decision like this since areas appropriate for manufacturing use would have been identified and 2) making a decision without a PLUM, as required by state law, made the county vulnerable to a legal challenge.  VARD also echoed the concerns put forth by the City of Driggs that this would draw commercial activity away from the city, which is contrary to the Comprehensive Plan.

Several contractors spoke in favor of the development saying that it would meet a need for shop space.  

During the deliberation all three commissioners had good things to say about the development, both in terms of its design and its intended use.  However, Commissioners Stevenson and Young were concerned about the lack of a PLUM and whether the application fit the requirements for a zone change.  Commissioner Trupp said he thought the development would meet a need, represented a good transitional use in this area and that it was good that it was out of the scenic corridor but still close to main roads. He had concerns about weeds and said the developer would need reclamation plan to control weeds and dust. 

There were also major concerns about traffic impacts and a lot of discussion about what mitigation should be required of the developer.  Although the developer did have a traffic study done at an earlier stage in the process it had not been included in the commissioners’ packets and therefore they had not had a chance to view it ahead of the hearing. Commissioner Young noted that although the applicant was offering to upgrade 1000 feet of road that did not even begin to address the impacts the development would have on the road.  He relayed how Idaho Department of Transportation had recently visited and said that that the county needed to get developers to help with constructing turn lanes off of Highway 33.  Sean Moulton said that the developer would be willing to discuss additional improvements both to 100 West and Highway 33, particularly if some plan could be put in place whereby those costs could be recouped as more developments came on line. 

The board decided to hold a work meeting with the applicant to address outstanding issues.  At Commissioner Trupp’s suggestion a rough list of concerns was drawn up so that the developer could come prepared.  The list, which was to be finalized the Monday after the meeting, included the following:

-City of Driggs to speak to the suitability of the sewer and water infrastructure for eventually becoming part of the municipal system

-address fully some of the issues identified in the traffic analysis

-discuss willingness of applicant to make improvements to Highway 33

-landscaping and fencing around entire perimeter of property to be responsibility of developer, not individual lot owners (in the past when left to lot owners has not been done)

-cover crop to be planted on unused lots and open areas to control weeds and dust

The Board approved unanimously a motion to table the application and to meet with the applicant on September 24th at 6pm. This meeting will be open to the public although it is not clear whether public testimony will be allowed.

Pioneer Park subdivision, located in the Driggs impact area was approved unanimously. 

Crooked Creek subdivision near Tetonia was approved.  However during the hearing Commissioner Trupp raised the point that all the roads and infrastructure had already been put in.  Nelson Engineering representatives said that they had notified all of their clients that going forward no construction could be done prior to final approval and that there would be serious repercussions for those violating the rule.

Targhee Hills Estates Approved

This 100 unit planned unit development (PUD) is located along Stateline Road across Teton Creek from Teton Creek Resort.  The developer’s presentation detailed the ways that the applicant had tried to work with the community: donations to the school district, county and fire district, pulling all buildings out of the riparian corridor etc.  However, the development is extremely dense – the underlying zoning would allow 40 units and the development has 100. As Commissioner Young said, “This meets the ordinance.  If anyone wants to know what the problem with the PUD ordinance is, you’re looking at it.”   Commissioner Stevenson added that “This would be a beautiful development if in the city or adjacent to it.”   However the applicant argued that the density meets the current code and said that this area is a transitional area from urban to rural and is surrounded by similar developments.  

One issue of concern that emerged during this hearing had to do with the standards for a Natural Resource Inventory study.   A representative from the consulting firm Biota said that the Natural Resource Inventory did not assess impacts of the development to natural resources, such as wildlife, because the developer had not requested that it do so.  VARD believes that should be one of the main reasons for such a study: to assess impacts in order to ensure adequate and appropriate mitigation measures.  For this reason VARD believes it is important that the county give parameters for Natural Resource Analyses or any other study they may require.  In addition, the county could have a list of preferred consultants who understand the county’s standards for any studies requested for developments.

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve Targhee Hills Estates with the condition that the Open Space be deeded as required by county ordinances. 

Mountain Legends PUD Remanded to P&Z

This 197 acre, 108 unit PUD is located in the vicinity of Stateline Road and 250 North and is adjacent to Teewinot subdivision.  This hearing did not begin until nearly midnight and while many concerned neighbors had left by this hour, many remained and voiced their concerns. 

On August 27th the BOCC approved directives to use the existing county ordinances to hold subdivisions to a higher standard in order to realize the vision of the comprehensive plan.  Especially in light of the directives, VARD had numerous reservations about this PUD: the densities given the rural character of the area, the cost of servicing this development given its density at its location, the secondary impacts to schools and affordable housing, configuration of open space and traffic impacts.   VARD therefore asked the BOCC to remand the application back to the P&Z so that these issues could be adequately addressed. 

Neighbors to the property echoed many of VARD’s concerns, many of them stating that the density and design was out of step with the neighborhood and was going to harm their quality of life and property values. One recurring theme was the additional traffic that would use Grand Teton Road, which neighbors described as a “quiet country road’ with baby strollers, kids on bikes, dogs etc.  Neighbors asked whether if the county approved Mountain Legends they would widen and pave the road, provide sidewalks and patrol it regularly.

Commissioner Young recused himself from deliberating on this application because he heard it as a commissioner on the Planning & Zoning Commission.  Although Commissioner Trupp initially wanted to approve the development, Commissioner Stevenson was not willing to vote that way, citing many of the concerns raised by the public.  When it became apparent that a failure to approve a motion on the development would result in the application being denied by default, Commissioner Trupp seconded a motion by Commissioner Stevenson to remand the application back to P&Z to look at the densities and other issues. 

VARD believes that this decision is an important one because it demonstrates that the county is willing to hold developments to the standard of the Comprehensive Plan which, after all, is the community’s vision for the future.  To not merely rubber stamp developments is a critical step forward in Teton County successfully managing growth.  We will have to wait and see how the P&Z handles the application and whether they can follow the BOCC directives to work with the developer to produce a better plan. 

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